Lebanon’s Rahi Warns of Coup Against Results of Parliamentary Elections

Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rahi (NNA)
Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rahi (NNA)
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Lebanon’s Rahi Warns of Coup Against Results of Parliamentary Elections

Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rahi (NNA)
Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rahi (NNA)

Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rahi warned Sunday of a coup against the results of the May 15 parliamentary vote, cautioning that some parties might use the security and economic turmoil in the country to control the upcoming election of a Speaker and President.

Presiding over Sunday mass in Bkirki, Rahi said the parliamentary elections gave new hopes to the people on possible change in the country that would encourage the international community to help Lebanon seriously, not symbolically, to get out of its economic crisis.

However, the Patriarch expressed concern over the return of the fuel crisis, the lack of medicine and bread, the rising commodity prices and the manipulation of the dollar peg.

"Wasn’t the opposite supposed to happen?" Rahi asked.

He said this suspicious development in the aftermath of the elections confirms once again that certain parties want to disrupt the new reality imposed by the polls and the movement for political change.

Iran-backed Hezbollah and its allies have lost their majority in Lebanon's parliament in the general election. The Shiite party’s opponents including the Christian Lebanese Forces gained ground.

“The significance of the forces winning the majority is not in the number of their representatives, but in their ability to form homogeneous, united and multi-sectarian parliamentary blocs that respect the principles of sovereignty, independence, neutrality and decentralization,” the Patriarch said.

As of May 22, after the current assembly's mandate expires, the new lawmakers will have 15 days to pick a speaker, a position Nabih Berri has held since 1992 and is not intent on leaving despite reaching the age of 84.

The Patriarch said electing a new parliament is the beginning of a crucial stage on which Lebanon’s future and the shape of the Lebanese state depend.

He added that Lebanon will have to face important stages that begin with the election of a Speaker, the formation of a national government and the election of a new President.

Therefore, Rahi said that winning the parliamentary elections is not the end of the struggle, rather its beginning.

“We call on all citizens, especially those who believe in positive change, national sovereignty, the unity of arms, neutrality, and decentralization, to be vigilant and ready to confront the attempts to sidestep the popular will,” the Patriarch stressed.



Syria Says an Israeli Strike Has Hit a Damascus Residential Area

Workers and people stand near a damaged building after, according to Syrian state media reports, several Israeli missiles hit a residential building in the Kafr Sousa district, Damascus, Syria  February 21, 2024. REUTERS/Firas Makdesi
Workers and people stand near a damaged building after, according to Syrian state media reports, several Israeli missiles hit a residential building in the Kafr Sousa district, Damascus, Syria February 21, 2024. REUTERS/Firas Makdesi
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Syria Says an Israeli Strike Has Hit a Damascus Residential Area

Workers and people stand near a damaged building after, according to Syrian state media reports, several Israeli missiles hit a residential building in the Kafr Sousa district, Damascus, Syria  February 21, 2024. REUTERS/Firas Makdesi
Workers and people stand near a damaged building after, according to Syrian state media reports, several Israeli missiles hit a residential building in the Kafr Sousa district, Damascus, Syria February 21, 2024. REUTERS/Firas Makdesi

Israeli strikes hit a neighborhood of the Syrian capital Wednesday morning, Syrian state TV said, and other media reported casualties.
State TV reported that several missiles hit the western neighborhood of Kfar Sousseh and didn't elaborate. The pro-government Sham FM radio station said the strike hit a building near an Iranian school and caused casualties, The Associated Press said.
Israel had no comment.
Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said the strike was “an assassination.” He did not say who might have been the target.
Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes on targets inside government-controlled parts of war-torn Syria in recent years.
Israel rarely acknowledges its actions in Syria, but it has said that it targets bases of Iran-allied militant groups, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which has sent thousands of fighters to support Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces.
Last month, an Israeli strike on the Syrian capital’s western neighborhood of Mazzeh destroyed a building used by the Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, killing at least five Iranians.
In December, an Israeli airstrike on a suburb of Damascus killed Iranian general Seyed Razi Mousavi, a longtime adviser of the Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guard in Syria. Israel has also targeted Palestinian and Lebanese operatives in Syria over the past years.


Sudanese Army Strikes Hemedti’s Hometown as Fighting Erupt Again in Khartoum 

Damage is seen following an army attack in El Daein. (Social media)
Damage is seen following an army attack in El Daein. (Social media)
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Sudanese Army Strikes Hemedti’s Hometown as Fighting Erupt Again in Khartoum 

Damage is seen following an army attack in El Daein. (Social media)
Damage is seen following an army attack in El Daein. (Social media)

The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) said on Tuesday that at least 11 people were killed and dozens wounded in Sudanese army air raids on the city of El Daein, the capital of the East Darfur state and hometown of RSF leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti.

The army confirmed that it carried out strikes on military targets in El Daein, saying it “hit and completely destroyed a weapons depot belonging to a terrorist militia”

The army’s WhatsApp channel said several “field commanders and Dagalo terrorist mercenaries” were killed in the attack.

In a post on the X platform, the RSF said nine of the victims were members of the same family and included women and children. Dozens of innocent civilians were wounded and hundreds of homes were damaged in the attack.

It accused the army of targeting the “al-Neem” refugee camp, a hospital and water plant in El Daein.

The city is the hometown of the Rizeigat tribe, whose members make up the majority of the RSF commanders and fighters.

The RSF accused the army of repeatedly attacking civilians with explosive bombs in “deliberate cowardly criminal acts.”

“The attack is the latest in the series of crimes committed by [army commander Abdul Fattah al-Burhan's] militia and remnants of the former regime,” it added.

It called on international rights and human rights groups to “condemn these barbaric extremist acts against innocent people.”

The RSF captured El Daein after the army retreated from it in November.

Activists on Facebook said the army’s strikes on Tuesday targeted residential areas, while others said they hit RSF positions, causing losses in lives and damaging military equipment.

Separately, witnesses said clashes erupted again in the capital Khartoum. They said the RSF shelled army positions with heavy artillery in the general command area.


Israel Pounds Gaza as US Vetoes UN Truce Resolution

Israel kept up its deadly bombardment of war-torn Gaza as Washington vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that called for a ceasefire in the Palestinian territory. SAID KHATIB / AFP
Israel kept up its deadly bombardment of war-torn Gaza as Washington vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that called for a ceasefire in the Palestinian territory. SAID KHATIB / AFP
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Israel Pounds Gaza as US Vetoes UN Truce Resolution

Israel kept up its deadly bombardment of war-torn Gaza as Washington vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that called for a ceasefire in the Palestinian territory. SAID KHATIB / AFP
Israel kept up its deadly bombardment of war-torn Gaza as Washington vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that called for a ceasefire in the Palestinian territory. SAID KHATIB / AFP

Israel kept up its deadly bombardment of war-torn Gaza as Washington vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that called for a ceasefire in the Palestinian territory.
Global powers trying to navigate a way out of the spiraling crisis have so far come up short, and mediation efforts have so far failed to secure a truce to halt the fighting, AFP said.
Adding to Gaza's woes, the UN's food agency said Tuesday that it had to stop desperately-needed deliveries to the north of the territory after facing "complete chaos and violence" there -- a decision condemned by Hamas.
The World Food Programme had only just resumed deliveries Sunday but said its convoy was met with gunfire, violence and looting, while a truck driver was beaten.
"We are shocked about this decision by the World Food Programme to suspend the delivery of food aid in northern Gaza, which means a death sentence and death for three-quarters of a million people," the Hamas government media office said Tuesday night.
Calling on the agency to "immediately reverse its disastrous decision", it said "we hold the United Nations and the international community responsible".
Since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, Gaza has been plunged into a food crisis, with outside aid severely restricted.
The UN has repeatedly sounded the alarm over the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, warning that food shortages could lead to an "explosion" of preventable child deaths.
More than four months of relentless fighting have flattened much of the coastal territory, pushing 2.2 million people to the brink of famine and displacing three-quarters of the population, according to UN estimates.
"We can't take it anymore. We do not have flour, we don't even know where to go in this cold weather," said Ahmad, a resident of Gaza city, where streets are strewn with rubble from destroyed buildings and garbage.
"We demand a ceasefire. We want to live," he said.
Ceasefire veto
But in New York, Washington vetoed a UN Security Council resolution drafted by Algeria, which demanded an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the "unconditional" release of all hostages kidnapped in the October 7 attacks.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Washington's ambassador to the UN, called the vote "wishful and irresponsible" as it could put negotiations to free hostages in Gaza "in jeopardy".
The veto provoked criticism from countries including China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and even close US allies France and Slovenia.
Hamas said the US veto equalled "a green light for the occupation to commit more massacres".
As world powers voted, Israeli strikes pounded Gaza early Wednesday as fighting on the ground raged on, leaving 103 people dead, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in the territory.
Witnesses reported heavy fire in areas around Gaza, including the south of the territory's main city Khan Yunis and Rafah near the Egyptian border, where around 1.4 million displaced Palestinians have sought shelter.
'Graveyard'
Rafah, Gaza's last city to face a ground invasion by Israeli ground troops, is also the main entry point for desperately needed relief supplies via Egypt.
Qatar, which has played a key role in mediation efforts between Hamas and Israel, said Tuesday that medicines sent into Gaza under a deal co-negotiated by France had reached the hostages held by Hamas, in exchange for a shipment of humanitarian aid.
But overall, negotiation efforts have failed to secure a longterm truce and despite international pressure, Israel has insisted that a ground operation Rafah is essential to destroy Hamas.
The war started when Hamas launched its unprecedented attack on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli figures.
Hamas also took about 250 hostages -- 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 30 presumed dead, according to Israel.
Israel's retaliatory campaign has killed at least 29,195 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest count by the territory's health ministry.

Leaders of global humanitarian groups said a ground offensive could turn the Rafah into a "graveyard", warning of the "truly unimaginable" consequences of a full-scale assault.
Israel has said that unless all the hostages are freed by the start of Ramadan on March 10 or 11, it will push on with its offensive during the Muslim holy month, including in Rafah.
G20 firestorm
On Wednesday, Brett McGurk, the White House coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa -- is expected to land in Egypt and then head to Israel Thursday to advance a hostage deal.
McGurk will also reiterate US President Joe Biden's concerns about an Israeli operation in Rafah, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.
Adding to the international chorus of criticism of Israel, Colombian President Gustavo Petro on Tuesday accused Israel of committing a "genocide" of the Palestinians in Gaza -- echoing comments made by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Lula sparked a diplomatic firestorm with his comments ahead of the G20 summit in Rio de Janeiro opening Wednesday, and Israel have declared him "persona non grata".


Aoun Continues to Break from Hezbollah: We Are Not Bound to Gaza by Defense Treaty

This picture taken from an Israeli position along the border with southern Lebanon shows smoke billowing from a site between the Lebanese villages of Odaisseh and Markaba during Israeli bombardment on February 19, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. (AFP)
This picture taken from an Israeli position along the border with southern Lebanon shows smoke billowing from a site between the Lebanese villages of Odaisseh and Markaba during Israeli bombardment on February 19, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. (AFP)
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Aoun Continues to Break from Hezbollah: We Are Not Bound to Gaza by Defense Treaty

This picture taken from an Israeli position along the border with southern Lebanon shows smoke billowing from a site between the Lebanese villages of Odaisseh and Markaba during Israeli bombardment on February 19, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. (AFP)
This picture taken from an Israeli position along the border with southern Lebanon shows smoke billowing from a site between the Lebanese villages of Odaisseh and Markaba during Israeli bombardment on February 19, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. (AFP)

Lebanese former President Michel Aoun continued to break away from his ally Hezbollah by openly criticizing the party for opening the southern front to wage clashes with Israel in solidarity with Gaza.

He said: “We are not bound to Gaza with a defense treaty.”

He is the latest Christian figure that has been calling for keeping Lebanon away from the war in Gaza.

In a televised interview to his Free Patriotic Movement-affiliated OTV, Aoun said Lebanon was not bound by a defense treaty to Gaza. “However, one segment of the Lebanese people has taken this choice, while the government is incapable of taking a position. A victory would be for the nation, not a portion of it,” he added.

Moreover, he dismissed claims that the decision to go to war was aimed at preempting an Israeli attack on Lebanon. “Getting involved in a confrontation doesn’t lessen the danger, but increases it,” he stressed.

Furthermore, he also dismissed efforts to tie the developments in Gaza and the South to a deal over the Lebanese presidency.

Lebanon has been without a president since Aoun’s term ended in October 2022. Bickering between political parties has thwarted the election of a successor.

The dispute over the presidency is another issue that has driven a wedge between the FPM and Hezbollah. The party backs the nomination of Marada Movement leader Suleiman Franjieh, while the FPM does not. Its current leader, Gebran Bassil, has presidential aspirations even though he has not declared his candidacy.

Tensions deepened between the allies over Hezbollah’s participation in government sessions that approved various state appointments and its MPs’ participation in a parliament meeting that approved the extension of the term of the army commander.

The Christian Kataeb party has been another vocal critic of Hezbollah’s fighting against Israel in the South.

Following a meeting of its political bureau, headed by Kataeb leader MP Sami Gemayel, it slammed the “proliferation of destructive weapons in villages and residential areas and the phenomenon of tunnels that threaten to drag everyone and everything in the country to war that Lebanon and the Lebanese people don’t want.”

The only reasonable option available is for the Lebanese army to seize control of the situation, said the Kataeb in a statement. “Only the army has the authority before the people and international community to defend Lebanon and protect its borders” in cooperation with the United Nations peacekeeping force.

“Deterring attacks should not be entrusted to a militia that has usurped the state. Rather, it is the responsibility of legitimate institutions that operate according to the constitution and laws, and through active and effective diplomacy that supports the Lebanese army, demands a ceasefire and prevents the spillover of the war,” it stressed.

Hezbollah, meanwhile, refuses to discuss any issues related to the war before the conflict in Gaza is over.

Deputy party leader Sheikh Naim Qassem said in recent days: “Let it be clear, we have three ‘nos’: No backing down from supporting Gaza as long as the [Israeli] aggression continues. No to succumbing to Israeli or western threats, because we believe that defense is a duty and without it there can be no stability.”

“And no to any discussion about the future of southern Lebanon, both on the Lebanese and Palestinian side of the border, before the end of the aggression on Gaza,” he added.


UN Aid Agency Says Israel Hasn’t Shown Evidence Its Workers Joined Rampage

Palestinians who fled from the northern Gaza Strip and Rafah town, outside their shelters in Deir Al Balah, southern Gaza Strip, 20 February 2024. (EPA)
Palestinians who fled from the northern Gaza Strip and Rafah town, outside their shelters in Deir Al Balah, southern Gaza Strip, 20 February 2024. (EPA)
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UN Aid Agency Says Israel Hasn’t Shown Evidence Its Workers Joined Rampage

Palestinians who fled from the northern Gaza Strip and Rafah town, outside their shelters in Deir Al Balah, southern Gaza Strip, 20 February 2024. (EPA)
Palestinians who fled from the northern Gaza Strip and Rafah town, outside their shelters in Deir Al Balah, southern Gaza Strip, 20 February 2024. (EPA)

The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees says the United Nations still has not received any evidence from Israel supporting its claims that 12 of the agency’s employees participated in the Oct. 7 rampage that sparked the war.

Israel released a document last month identifying the 12 workers along with the allegations against them, and accusing some of participating in kidnappings. But it has released little of the evidence collected against the workers.

The allegations prompted key donors, including the United States, to suspend funding to UNRWA. The agency, the main provider of aid in Gaza, has warned it will have to halt its operations if funding is not soon restored.

Philippe Lazzarini, the director of UNRWA, has dismissed the 10 surviving workers; the agency says the other two were killed in fighting. The UN has also opened two investigations into UNRWA’s operations.

In a podcast Tuesday, Lazzarini said Israel still has not presented formal evidence to the UN.

“The UN has never, never, ever received any written dossier, despite our repeated call for cooperation from the Israeli authorities,” he said. He added that agency investigators are looking into the allegations and called on anyone with evidence to share it with the investigation team.

Israel has long accused UNRWA of tolerating Hamas activities in and around UN facilities and in some cases even cooperating with the militant group. Lazzarini has denied this and says his agency has safeguards in place to discipline any employee who violates the UN ideals of neutrality.


Lebanese Warehouse Hit in Israeli Strike Burns for the Second Day Ghazieh

Firefighters extinguish a fire at a destroyed warehouse that was targeted on Monday by Israeli airstrikes, at an industrial district in the southern coastal town of Ghazieh, Lebanon, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (AP)
Firefighters extinguish a fire at a destroyed warehouse that was targeted on Monday by Israeli airstrikes, at an industrial district in the southern coastal town of Ghazieh, Lebanon, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (AP)
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Lebanese Warehouse Hit in Israeli Strike Burns for the Second Day Ghazieh

Firefighters extinguish a fire at a destroyed warehouse that was targeted on Monday by Israeli airstrikes, at an industrial district in the southern coastal town of Ghazieh, Lebanon, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (AP)
Firefighters extinguish a fire at a destroyed warehouse that was targeted on Monday by Israeli airstrikes, at an industrial district in the southern coastal town of Ghazieh, Lebanon, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (AP)

Firefighters in southern Lebanon were battling a diesel fuel fire in a warehouse that was struck by Israeli jets for a second day Tuesday.

The Israeli military’s Arabic spokesperson Avichay Adraee said the attack Monday targeted a weapons warehouse that belonged to the militant group Hezbollah.

The strike that wounded 14 people was one of the largest near a major Lebanese city since clashes between the Israeli military and Hezbollah along the Lebanese-Israeli border erupted after the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7.

Mohamad Khalifa, the owner of the warehouse, denied allegations that the facility belonged to Hezbollah.

“This is a company registered for 11 years that works with electricity generators, open from morning until night, receiving customers all day,” he told The Associated Press. “There is nothing hidden here. The claim that this has weapons is a lie.”

The airstrike reduced the warehouse to scraps, with fuel fires slowly burning.


US Again Vetoes UN Action in Israel-Hamas War, Blocks Ceasefire Call

 Palestinian children wait to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen amid shortages of food supplies, as the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas continues, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, February 20, 2024. (Reuters)
Palestinian children wait to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen amid shortages of food supplies, as the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas continues, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, February 20, 2024. (Reuters)
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US Again Vetoes UN Action in Israel-Hamas War, Blocks Ceasefire Call

 Palestinian children wait to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen amid shortages of food supplies, as the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas continues, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, February 20, 2024. (Reuters)
Palestinian children wait to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen amid shortages of food supplies, as the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas continues, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, February 20, 2024. (Reuters)

The United States on Tuesday again vetoed a draft United Nations Security Council resolution on the Israel-Hamas war, blocking a demand for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire as it instead pushes the 15-member body to call for a temporary ceasefire linked to the release of hostages held by Hamas.

Thirteen council members voted in favor of the Algerian-drafted text, while Britain abstained. It was the third such US veto since the start of the current fighting on Oct. 7.

"A vote in favor of this draft resolution is support to the Palestinians right to life. Conversely, voting against it implies an endorsement of the brutal violence and collective punishment inflicted upon them," Algeria's UN Ambassador Amar Bendjama told the council before the vote.

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield signaled on Saturday that the US would veto the draft resolution over concerns it could jeopardize talks between the US, Egypt, Israel and Qatar that seek to broker a pause in the war and the release of hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

"Demanding an immediate, unconditional ceasefire without an agreement requiring Hamas to release the hostages will not bring about a durable peace. Instead, it could extend the fighting between Hamas and Israel," Thomas-Greenfield told the council ahead of the vote.

The Algerian-drafted resolution vetoed by the US did not link a ceasefire to the release of hostages. It separately demanded an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.

"Simply calling for a ceasefire - as this resolution does - will not make it happen," Britain's UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward told the council after the vote. "The way to stop the fighting, and potentially stop it from restarting, is to begin with a pause to get hostages out and aid in."

Temporary ceasefire

The US has now proposed a rival draft resolution calling for a temporary ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war and opposing a major ground offensive by its ally Israel in Rafah, according to the text seen by Reuters on Monday. It said it plans to allow time for negotiations and will not rush to a vote.

Until now, Washington has been averse to the word ceasefire in any UN action on the Israel-Hamas war, but the US text echoes language that President Joe Biden said he used last week in conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The US draft resolution would see the Security Council "underscore its support for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza as soon as practicable, based on the formula of all hostages being released, and calls for lifting all barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance at scale."

This is the second time since Oct. 7 that Washington has proposed a Security Council resolution on Gaza. Russia and China vetoed its first attempt in late October.

Washington traditionally shields Israel from UN action. But it has also abstained twice, allowing the council to adopt resolutions that aimed to boost aid to Gaza and called for extended pauses in fighting.

The war began when fighters from the Hamas militant group that runs Gaza attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and capturing 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. In retaliation, Israel launched a military assault on Gaza that health authorities say has killed nearly 29,000 Palestinians with thousands more bodies feared lost amid the ruins.

In December, more than three-quarters of the 193-member UN General Assembly voted to demand an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. General Assembly resolutions are not binding but carry political weight, reflecting a global view on the war.


Iran Begins Efforts to Stop US-British Strikes Against Houthis

Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani speaking to reporters (IRNA)
Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani speaking to reporters (IRNA)
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Iran Begins Efforts to Stop US-British Strikes Against Houthis

Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani speaking to reporters (IRNA)
Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani speaking to reporters (IRNA)

Iran launched its diplomatic efforts to stop the US-British attacks on the Houthi group, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani.

Kanaani indicated that recent developments in the Red Sea are a result of the situation in the Gaza Strip.

Speaking at the weekly press conference, Kanaani announced that the UK-US attacks against Yemen violate the sovereignty of an independent and UN member state.

He described the attacks as a "flagrant act of aggression and adventure," accusing them of issuing "false claims" of not wanting to expand the scope of the war while they launched illegal and unilateral actions.

Hamas has been launching drone and missile attacks on ships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden since Nov. 19 in support of the Palestinians in the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

In response, US and British forces began launching air attacks on Houthi positions.

The spokesman reiterated Tehran's condemnation of the attacks, saying the situation in the "Red Sea is caused by the conditions that are going on in Gaza."

Iran has expressed its transparent position on the issue, he further noted.

- Boycotting Israeli goods in Iran

Kanaani asserted that boycotting Israeli goods is a demand of all free people in the world.

The spokesman explained that the Foreign Ministry must monitor and prepare a list of companies and goods associated with Israel under the law.

Last year, the authorities identified the companies and goods affiliated with Israel and updated the list submitted to the Trade Ministry and the Customs Administration.

Last December, Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf demanded that the Foreign Ministry provide a list of goods linked to Israeli companies.

Ghalibaf said the government must take the necessary measures to prevent the import of these goods.

Kanaani asserted that none of the known Israeli goods will be allowed to enter Iran.

- Gaza, post-war

He indicated that the "Zionist entity does want to stop the war," accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of seeking his interests through the ongoing war and lack of security and stability.

Kanaani defended the actions of the "Axis of Resistance" groups, referring to the recent visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian to Beirut.

Commenting on the death of Iranian Revolutionary Guard officers in Syria last month, Kanaani said officials on several occasions that any action against Iran will not go unanswered, and Tehran will respond to the Zionist action against it.

On Sunday, The Washington Post quoted Lebanese and Iraqi officials as saying that Iran is privately urging Hezbollah and other armed groups to exercise restraint against US forces.

"Iran may have realized their interests are not served by allowing their proxies unrestricted ability to attack US and coalition forces," one US official said.

"Iran is doing its utmost to prevent the expansion of the war and the escalation from reaching the point of no return," said an Iraqi official with close ties to Iranian-backed forces there.

The newspaper pointed out that Amirabdollahian praised the groups during a recent visit to Lebanon and promised continued support.

However, in private, Iranian emissaries have adopted a more measured tone. They've praised Hezbollah's sacrifices but cautioned that war with Israel would risk precious gains in the region, according to Washington Post sources.

Washington confirmed that Tehran enjoys a high level of control over its "agents" in the region. Tehran says it has provided funding, advice, and training to allies.

On Sunday, multiple Iranian and Iraqi sources told Reuters that the visit of the commander of Iran's elite Quds Force, Esmail Qaani, to Baghdad has led to a pause in attacks on US troops by Iran-aligned groups in Iraq.

Qaani met representatives of several of the armed groups in Baghdad airport on Jan. 29, less than 48 hours after Washington blamed the groups for the killing of three US soldiers at the Tower 22 outpost in Jordan, the sources said.

The sources added that Qaani informed the armed factions that shedding US blood risked a violent response and that they must move away from the scene to avoid launching a strike.

He said the militias should lie low to avoid US strikes on their senior commanders, destruction of key infrastructure, or even a direct retaliation against Iran, the sources said.

Since Feb. 4, there have been no attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria, compared to more than 20 attacks in the two weeks before Qaani's visit.


WHO Completes 2nd Gaza Hospital Evacuation amid Ongoing Raid

Medics transfer wounded Palestinians from Gaza to Egypt through the Rafah crossing on Sunday. (AFP)
Medics transfer wounded Palestinians from Gaza to Egypt through the Rafah crossing on Sunday. (AFP)
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WHO Completes 2nd Gaza Hospital Evacuation amid Ongoing Raid

Medics transfer wounded Palestinians from Gaza to Egypt through the Rafah crossing on Sunday. (AFP)
Medics transfer wounded Palestinians from Gaza to Egypt through the Rafah crossing on Sunday. (AFP)

The World Health Organization said on Tuesday it has completed a second evacuation mission from Gaza's Nasser Hospital, transferring a total of 32 critical patients including children from the site amid ongoing hostilities.

Efforts to transfer the remaining patients are ongoing, the global health agency said, Reuters reported.

"WHO fears for the safety and well-being of the patients and health workers remaining in the hospital and warns that further disruption to lifesaving care for the sick and injured would lead to more deaths," the WHO said on social media site X.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Asharq Al-Awsat Exclusive: Technical Error Foiled Hamas Plan to Attack Ashkelon Prison on Oct. 7

Israelis take cover in a bomb shelter while sirens sound as rockets from Gaza are launched towards Israel, in Ashkelon, southern Israel (Reuters)
Israelis take cover in a bomb shelter while sirens sound as rockets from Gaza are launched towards Israel, in Ashkelon, southern Israel (Reuters)
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Asharq Al-Awsat Exclusive: Technical Error Foiled Hamas Plan to Attack Ashkelon Prison on Oct. 7

Israelis take cover in a bomb shelter while sirens sound as rockets from Gaza are launched towards Israel, in Ashkelon, southern Israel (Reuters)
Israelis take cover in a bomb shelter while sirens sound as rockets from Gaza are launched towards Israel, in Ashkelon, southern Israel (Reuters)

Hamas was planning to storm Ashkelon Central Prison, close to the Gaza Strip, during the al-Aqsa Flood operation on Oct. 7 to free hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, in a mission that would have constituted another unprecedented blow to Israel.
In a special report, Asharq Al-Awsat revealed the details of the attack, which was supposed to target the prison but failed due to a technical error that led the attacking group to a nearby settlement instead of the prison.
Sources in the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip told Asharq Al-Awsat that one of the first groups affiliated with the elite unit of the al-Qassam Brigades had a mission to reach Ashkelon Prison, which contains hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in an attempt to liberate them, but the mission failed.
Sources close to the command of al-Qassam Brigades revealed that one of the groups consisted of 23 fighters and was explicitly assigned to reach Ashkelon Prison and free prisoners from it.
Another group's mission was to infiltrate a military base in the Ashkelon area before moving on to assist those already at the prison.
The sources reported that the group set off towards Ashkelon, crossed the border, and reached Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, where it clashed with Israeli security forces. They also arrived in the Netiv HaAsara settlement.
Initial investigations showed the mistake resulted from the designated guide in charge of GPS and maps, who made a directional error leading the group southwards.
Precise intrusion plan
According to the sources, the plan to storm the prison was carefully drawn up and in sufficient detail, and al-Qassam wanted it to constitute a solid blow to Israel, among other strikes on Oct. 7.
They explained that the plan relied on attacking the main gate of the prison using explosives and anti-tank missiles to blow up the gate and security positions along the prison fence, alongside rocket fire from Gaza towards the prison, with a signal from the group that it was there.
Ashkelon Prison is about 13 kilometers from the nearest border point in the northern Gaza Strip, southeast of the city.
The plan also relied upon the cooperation of the prisoners to rise and riot, which would assist the group.
However, the Qassam command did not receive any signals from the group that it had reached the prison, and it later became clear that it had arrived in Sderot, so it was instructed to wait.
The group engaged in clashes that lasted for hours with the Israeli police and army forces, which led to the Israeli forces losing control of the town after two al-Qassam groups met there.
It appears that this was one of the reasons for the continued clashes in Sderot for about three days after the Palestinian attackers barricaded themselves inside the police station and settlers' homes.
The sources confirmed that the al-Qassam Brigade did not abandon the plan to storm the prison.
Four members who participated in the storming of kibbutz Zikim were instructed to continue to try and reach the prison but were repelled by Israeli security forces before being targeted by air strikes.
- Support unit
The al-Qassam leadership had sent "elite" support units to the groups that led the storming of the border with Israel to facilitate their tasks, especially after their success in capturing dozens of Israelis.
The troop's support succeeded in killing, wounding, and capturing more Israelis and transporting those who were captured into the Gaza Strip.
The entire attack was aimed at capturing Israeli soldiers to push Tel Aviv into an exchange deal after it ignored four detainees held by Hamas. The operation later expanded in an unplanned manner.
Al-Qassam Brigades did not conduct any extensive investigation into the failure of its members to reach Ashkelon Prison due to the ongoing war for more than 130 days.
- Why Ashkelon?
In Israel, Ashkelon Central Prison is known as "Shikma Prison," number 713 in the Southern District. It was established during the British Mandate as a headquarters for the British Army stationed in the city to receive official British delegations.
After the defeat of 1967, it was transformed into the Ashkelon Police Station. With the escalation of the Palestinian national resistance against the occupation and a significant increase in the number of prisoners, the Israeli army leadership issued a military decree opening the Ashkelon prison.
With the increase of Palestinian resistance and operations against Israel, increasing the number of detainees among them, there was an immediate need to open a prison, and it was decided that this building would become a maximum security prison.

Ashkelon Central Prison began receiving Palestinian prisoners at the beginning of 1969. It holds about a thousand detainees. Each prisoner is allotted one and a half meters of space, and the rooms are often crowded. They are forced into compulsory labor, leading to riots and collective strikes.
The prison is famous for its damp cells that do not receive sunlight and the harsh, unbearable heat.