France Denounces Iran's Seizure of Two Greek Tankers

The seized oil tanker Pegas is seen anchored off the shore of Karystos, on the Island of Evia, Greece, April 19, 2022. REUTERS/Vassilis Triandafyllou/File Photo
The seized oil tanker Pegas is seen anchored off the shore of Karystos, on the Island of Evia, Greece, April 19, 2022. REUTERS/Vassilis Triandafyllou/File Photo
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France Denounces Iran's Seizure of Two Greek Tankers

The seized oil tanker Pegas is seen anchored off the shore of Karystos, on the Island of Evia, Greece, April 19, 2022. REUTERS/Vassilis Triandafyllou/File Photo
The seized oil tanker Pegas is seen anchored off the shore of Karystos, on the Island of Evia, Greece, April 19, 2022. REUTERS/Vassilis Triandafyllou/File Photo

Iran's seizure of two Greek-flagged oil tankers in Gulf waters is "a serious violation of international law", France's foreign ministry said Sunday, calling for the immediate release of the ships and their crews.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards seized the Greek tankers in the Gulf Friday, days after Athens confirmed it would deliver to Washington Iranian oil it had seized from a Russian tanker.

"We call on Iran to immediately release the crews and vessels," AFP quoted a French foreign ministry spokesperson as saying in a statement.

"France reiterates its commitment to the rules of international law protecting the freedom of navigation and maritime safety. We call on Iran to immediately cease its actions that contravene these rules," the statement concluded.

Iran said Saturday the crews of two Greek oil tankers were in "good health" and not under arrest.

But Greece has condemned Tehran's detention of the two ships as "tantamount to acts of piracy" and warned its citizens not to travel to Iran.

The Revolutionary Guards -- the ideological arm of Iran's military -- had said it seized the tankers "due to violations", without elaborating further.

Greece said one of the tankers had been sailing in international waters, while the second was near the Iranian coast when it was seized.

Nine Greeks are among the crews, the Greek foreign ministry said, without specifying the number of other sailors on board.



Over SAR6 Bln to Be Invested in Environmental Compliance Projects in Saudi Arabia until 2030

Saudi Vice Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Eng. Mansour Al Mushaiti speaks at the event in Riyadh. (SPA)
Saudi Vice Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Eng. Mansour Al Mushaiti speaks at the event in Riyadh. (SPA)
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Over SAR6 Bln to Be Invested in Environmental Compliance Projects in Saudi Arabia until 2030

Saudi Vice Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Eng. Mansour Al Mushaiti speaks at the event in Riyadh. (SPA)
Saudi Vice Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Eng. Mansour Al Mushaiti speaks at the event in Riyadh. (SPA)

Saudi Vice Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Eng. Mansour Al Mushaiti said on Monday over SAR6 billion will have been invested in environmental compliance projects in Saudi Arabia by the end of 2030.

He made his remarks at the inaugural two-day Environmental Compliance Forum in Riyadh that ended on Monday.

Al Mushaiti stressed that the environment is closely related to the economy, community health and quality of life, and as such, it is one of the priority areas of the wise leadership, whose support contributed to an “unprecedented development of the environment, water and agriculture sectors” in line with the Kingdom's Vision 2030.

He said the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture started to draw up the National Environment Strategy in 2016, and “through practical steps and practices, provided sustainable solutions, with the participation of the private sector, which played a crucial part in achieving many environment-friendly development goals”.

He added that the current forum sought to stress the importance of cooperation to create a sustainable environment that contributes to preserving natural resources, boosting the quality of life and improving the services provided to individuals.

According to a 2014 study by the World Bank, the cost of environmental degradation exceeded SAR86 billion, he noted.

Protecting the environment, he stressed, is crucial to ensuring environment, food and water security, and to progressing and achieving economic prosperity.

Al Mushaiti also highlighted Saudi Arabia’s “remarkable strides” in protecting the environment, preserving natural resources and achieving progress in global indicators.


Saudi FM: Kingdom Supports All Efforts to Ban All Types of Weapons of Mass Destruction

Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah attends the G20 foreign ministers meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on February 21, 2024. (AFP)
Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah attends the G20 foreign ministers meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on February 21, 2024. (AFP)
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Saudi FM: Kingdom Supports All Efforts to Ban All Types of Weapons of Mass Destruction

Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah attends the G20 foreign ministers meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on February 21, 2024. (AFP)
Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah attends the G20 foreign ministers meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on February 21, 2024. (AFP)

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah stressed on Monday that the Kingdom supports all regional and international efforts to ban all types of weapons of mass destruction.

Speaking at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) high-level segment (HLS) at the UN headquarters in Geneva, he expressed Riyadh’s appreciation for the support its members showed to it in joining the conference as an observer.

He highlighted the international community's concern about the deadlock in the conference, which remains unable to adopt a clear and comprehensive program of work to fulfill its mandate.

The minister said it is important to address the reasons the conference has reached an impasse, urging the need to avoid unilateral positions that hinder the prospects of achieving collective security.

Prince Faisal emphasized the need for all states to demonstrate flexibility and political determination to allow the conference to carry out its role and expand membership.

Moreover, the FM expressed the Kingdom’s regret that the State of Palestine’s request to join the CD as an observer was turned down, saying there was no legal justification for the decision.

He added that Saudi Arabia has shown great interest in joining the agreements resulting from the work of the conference, primarily the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention, reiterating the Kingdom's support for all regional and international efforts to ban all types of weapons of mass destruction.

He further emphasized the need for all states to respect the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to help make the Middle East a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction.

This is a collective responsibility, not limited to the countries of the region, he declared.

Furthermore, Prince Faisal underlined the Kingdom's support for ensuring the right of states to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in line with nuclear agreements and nuclear safety standards.

He also stressed the Kingdom's position in support of the right to use outer space exclusively for peaceful purposes.

He welcomed increased cooperation to address current and future challenges in outer space and to reach decisions leading to reducing space threats by developing policies that comply with international law, the UN Charter, and relevant treaties and agreements.

Prince Faisal called for continued efforts to achieve a balance between outer space security and its peaceful use, to ensure its safety, security, and sustainability, and the well-being of humanity.

Prince Faisal met on the sidelines of the conference Kazakh Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Murat Nurtleu, Swiss FM Ignazio Cassis and Colombian FM Luis Gilberto Murillo.

The meetings focused on bilateral relations and regional and international developments of interest.


Tunisian President, Saudi Interior Minister Discuss Security Cooperation

Tunisian President Kais Saied receives Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz in Tunis on Monday. (SPA)
Tunisian President Kais Saied receives Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz in Tunis on Monday. (SPA)
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Tunisian President, Saudi Interior Minister Discuss Security Cooperation

Tunisian President Kais Saied receives Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz in Tunis on Monday. (SPA)
Tunisian President Kais Saied receives Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz in Tunis on Monday. (SPA)

Tunisian President Kais Saied received in Tunis on Monday Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud conveyed the greetings of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Crown Prince, Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, to Saied, wishing to the government and people of Tunisia steady progress and prosperity.

They also reviewed relations and security cooperation between their countries.


Saudi Interior Minister Discusses Boosting Cooperation with Arab Counterparts 

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz meets with his Iraqi counterpart Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Al-Shammari in Tunis on Sunday. (SPA)
Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz meets with his Iraqi counterpart Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Al-Shammari in Tunis on Sunday. (SPA)
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Saudi Interior Minister Discusses Boosting Cooperation with Arab Counterparts 

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz meets with his Iraqi counterpart Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Al-Shammari in Tunis on Sunday. (SPA)
Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz meets with his Iraqi counterpart Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Al-Shammari in Tunis on Sunday. (SPA)

Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz, Saudi Minister of Interior and Honorary President of the Council of Arab Interior Ministers, held on Sunday a series of meetings in Tunis with his counterparts from across the Arab world on boosting cooperation.

The officials were in Tunisia to take part in the 41st session of the Arab Interior Ministers' Council that will be chaired by Qatar and held on Monday.

Prince Abdulaziz held talks with his counterpart from Iraq, Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Al-Shammari, Palestine, Ziad Hab Al-Reeh, Jordan, Mazen Abdullah Al-Faraya, Egypt, Major General Mahmoud Tawfiq, and Djibouti, Saeed Noah Hassan


Riyadh to Host First International Conference on Sand and Dust Storms in March 

Saudi Arabia's National Center for Meteorology (NCM) will host the First International Conference on Sand and Dust Storms in Riyadh from March 4 to 6. 
Saudi Arabia's National Center for Meteorology (NCM) will host the First International Conference on Sand and Dust Storms in Riyadh from March 4 to 6. 
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Riyadh to Host First International Conference on Sand and Dust Storms in March 

Saudi Arabia's National Center for Meteorology (NCM) will host the First International Conference on Sand and Dust Storms in Riyadh from March 4 to 6. 
Saudi Arabia's National Center for Meteorology (NCM) will host the First International Conference on Sand and Dust Storms in Riyadh from March 4 to 6. 

Saudi Arabia's National Center for Meteorology (NCM) will host the First International Conference on Sand and Dust Storms in Riyadh from March 4 to 6.

The event, organized by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Sand and Dust Storm Warning Regional Center and expected to draw wide international participation, aims to address the growing global challenge posed by dust and sand storms.

Over 200 researchers, experts, and specialists from around the world, including WMO representatives, will gather to share the latest advancements in dust and sand storm research.

The conference is slated to discuss a wide range of critical topics, including sources of dust aerosol formation, dust-climate interactions, health impacts and mitigation strategies, monitoring and predictive modeling, and economic, infrastructural, and environmental consequences of dust storms on various sectors.

The conference will underscore the urgent need to combat dust and sand storms in view of their significant impact on the environment, public health, and economies.

Such storms can lead to respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, disrupt solar energy production, degrade air quality, alter weather patterns, and disrupt biogeochemical cycles. International and regional initiatives have been taken to study these impacts and come up with mitigating strategies.

The Middle East, with its vast arid and semi-arid landscape, is a major source of dust particles. The increasing frequency and intensity of dust storms in the region, attributed to changes in land use and vegetation cover degradation, needs further comprehensive research to fully understand their far-reaching effects.

The international conference serves as a crucial platform where scientists, policymakers, and stakeholders from around the world can exchange knowledge and collaborate, paving the way for a more coordinated and effective approach to tackling the global challenge of dust and sand storms.


Four Workers Dead In Egypt Boat Sinking

Drowning accidents are common along Egypt's many canals, leading rural communities to organize for search-and-rescue operations © Khaled DESOUKI / AFP
Drowning accidents are common along Egypt's many canals, leading rural communities to organize for search-and-rescue operations © Khaled DESOUKI / AFP
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Four Workers Dead In Egypt Boat Sinking

Drowning accidents are common along Egypt's many canals, leading rural communities to organize for search-and-rescue operations © Khaled DESOUKI / AFP
Drowning accidents are common along Egypt's many canals, leading rural communities to organize for search-and-rescue operations © Khaled DESOUKI / AFP

Four Egyptian construction workers died Sunday when their boat sank in a canal near Giza, state media reported, adding that five others were rescued and four passengers were still missing.

The small boat was carrying 13 workers when it went down near the northern Giza village of Nekla, around 30 kilometres (18 miles) northwest of the capital Cairo, state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram said.

"Rescuers managed to recover the bodies of four victims and save five others," while efforts to find the remaining four passengers were ongoing, the paper said, AFP reported.

The health ministry said four of the rescued had been transported to hospital, and three were later discharged.

They were suffering from "drowning-induced asphyxia", the ministry said, adding that one of them had remained "under observation" at the hospital.

AFP correspondents at the scene saw local fishermen pulling a body out of the water as anxious relatives watched the ad hoc rescue operation.

One of the volunteers, Yasser, told AFP they arrived on the scene more than an hour after the accident and had "pulled out four people".

He and the other fishermen requested anonymity to protect their privacy.

Speaking from a small wooden motorboat, Yasser said the volunteers are "self-funded with donations" from a nearby village to help respond to emergencies along the canal.


Arab States, Türkiye Ask World Court to Declare Israel’s Occupation Illegal 

A man waves a Palestinian flag as people protest on the day of a public hearing held by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to allow parties to give their views on the legal consequences of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories before eventually issuing a non-binding legal opinion, in The Hague, Netherlands, February 21, 2024. (Reuters)
A man waves a Palestinian flag as people protest on the day of a public hearing held by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to allow parties to give their views on the legal consequences of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories before eventually issuing a non-binding legal opinion, in The Hague, Netherlands, February 21, 2024. (Reuters)
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Arab States, Türkiye Ask World Court to Declare Israel’s Occupation Illegal 

A man waves a Palestinian flag as people protest on the day of a public hearing held by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to allow parties to give their views on the legal consequences of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories before eventually issuing a non-binding legal opinion, in The Hague, Netherlands, February 21, 2024. (Reuters)
A man waves a Palestinian flag as people protest on the day of a public hearing held by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to allow parties to give their views on the legal consequences of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories before eventually issuing a non-binding legal opinion, in The Hague, Netherlands, February 21, 2024. (Reuters)

Arab states urged international judges on Monday to rule the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories illegal and Türkiye described the occupation as "the real obstacle to peace" on the final day of hearings in a case examining its legal status.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has been hearing arguments from more than 50 states following a request by the UN General Assembly in 2022 to issue a non-binding opinion on the legal consequences of the Israeli occupation.

On the sixth and last day of hearings, Türkiye’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmet Yildiz told judges the occupation was the root cause of conflict in the region.

Yildiz also addressed the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas in Israel, which killed 1,200 people, and Israel's military response that has since killed over 29,000 Palestinians.

"The unfolding situation after October 7 proves once again that, without addressing the root cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there can be no peace in the region," he said, describing the occupation of Palestinian territories as "the real obstacle to peace" and urging the judges to declare it illegal.

Israel, which is not taking part in the hearings, has said the court's involvement could be harmful to achieving a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, calling the questions posed to the court prejudiced.

The Arab League's secretary general Ahmed Aboul Gheit described the occupation "an affront to international justice" in a statement read out by a representative.

It called upon the ICJ, also known as the World Court, to "confirm the illegality of this occupation and unambiguously rule on the legal consequences for all parties, especially those who turn a blind eye, facilitate, assist, or participate in any way in perpetuating this illegal situation".

Last week, Palestinian representatives asked the judges to declare Israel's occupation of their territory illegal and said its opinion could help reach a two-state solution to decades of Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has now devastated Gaza.

The judges are expected to take roughly six months to issue an opinion on the request.


Chelsea Looks to Respond to Neville’s ‘Bottle Jobs’ Taunt by Staying on Course in FA Cup 

Chelsea's Argentinian head coach Mauricio Pochettino gestures on the touchline during the English League Cup final football match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Wembley stadium, in London, on February 25, 2024. (AFP)
Chelsea's Argentinian head coach Mauricio Pochettino gestures on the touchline during the English League Cup final football match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Wembley stadium, in London, on February 25, 2024. (AFP)
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Chelsea Looks to Respond to Neville’s ‘Bottle Jobs’ Taunt by Staying on Course in FA Cup 

Chelsea's Argentinian head coach Mauricio Pochettino gestures on the touchline during the English League Cup final football match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Wembley stadium, in London, on February 25, 2024. (AFP)
Chelsea's Argentinian head coach Mauricio Pochettino gestures on the touchline during the English League Cup final football match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Wembley stadium, in London, on February 25, 2024. (AFP)

Chelsea's underperforming players were described by one leading British soccer pundit as “billion-pound bottle jobs” after their loss in the English League Cup final.

They'll need to show they have the stomach for a fight when they return to action on Wednesday in another cup competition that represents their last chance of winning a trophy this season.

Fresh off Sunday's defeat by a youthful Liverpool team at Wembley Stadium, Chelsea hosts Leeds — an in-form second-tier side on course for an immediate return to the Premier League — in the fifth round of the FA Cup.

No doubt ringing in the ears of Chelsea's squad will be that cruel taunt by Gary Neville — a former Manchester United and England defender who is now a high-profile analyst for broadcaster Sky Sports — that is dominating the post-League Cup final media agenda.

Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino brushed off the criticism, saying it was “not fair to talk in this way” and that Neville knew the “dynamics” in play as the London club looks to gel a squad of young players that has been expensively assembled over the past two years.

Prior to the recent January transfer window, Chelsea had spent more than $1 billion across three windows in the new Todd Boehly-Clearlake Capital regime and has yet to see the benefits.

The tag of “bottle jobs” — meaning people who collapse under pressure — might stick if Chelsea succumbs to Leeds at Stamford Bridge, given how much of a favorite Pochettino's team will be for the last-16 match.

“They need to feel the pain,” Pochettino said of his players. “We played for a trophy we didn’t get and now, it is the same — what can you tell me to feel better? Nothing. They need to feel the pain and of course they need to realize we need to work more, do better things, we need to improve.”

Chelsea is not in Europe this season and is also far from certain of making it into any European competition next season. The team is in 11th place in the Premier League, though only four points off seventh spot. Finishing in seventh would guarantee a berth in either the Europa League or the Europa Conference League.

The FA Cup, therefore, is suddenly a big deal for Chelsea and Pochettino. Their problem is, there are quite a few top teams left in the draw.

Like defending champion Manchester City, which continues its defense of the trophy — and its bid for back-to-back trebles — with a trip to Luton on Tuesday.

Like Liverpool, which is at home to second-tier Southampton on Wednesday. Jurgen Klopp might have to roll out the kids once again, with an injury crisis robbing the manager of at least 10 senior players. Ryan Gravenberch and Wataru Endo were the latest to pick up injuries in the final against Chelsea.

Manchester United visits Nottingham Forest in an all-Premier League matchup on Wednesday, when Wolverhampton has a home game against fellow top-flight team Brighton.

Tuesday's other games see second-tier Blackburn hosting struggling Newcastle and Bournemouth at home to second-tier leader Leicester.


Israel-Hezbollah Strikes Cloud Lebanon’s Economy, Minister Says 

A man examines a destroyed warehouse, one day after an Israeli air raid at an industrial district, in the southern coastal town of Ghaziyeh, Lebanon, 20 February 2024. (EPA)
A man examines a destroyed warehouse, one day after an Israeli air raid at an industrial district, in the southern coastal town of Ghaziyeh, Lebanon, 20 February 2024. (EPA)
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Israel-Hezbollah Strikes Cloud Lebanon’s Economy, Minister Says 

A man examines a destroyed warehouse, one day after an Israeli air raid at an industrial district, in the southern coastal town of Ghaziyeh, Lebanon, 20 February 2024. (EPA)
A man examines a destroyed warehouse, one day after an Israeli air raid at an industrial district, in the southern coastal town of Ghaziyeh, Lebanon, 20 February 2024. (EPA)

Lebanon's long-troubled economy is shrouded in uncertainty by conflict on its southern border between Israeli forces and Hezbollah militants, Lebanon's economy minister said on Monday.

Minister of Economy and Trade Amin Salam told reporters in Abu Dhabi that Lebanon would miss an annual growth forecast of 2-4% this year as a direct result of the cross-border strikes.

"Lebanon is in a state of lot of questions now but definitely things are declining in a negative way," he said on the sidelines of a World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting.

He said it was unclear if visitors from the Lebanese diaspora and other tourists, who he said injected about $5-7 billion into the economy last summer, would come to the country this season.

The recent winter season had seen fewer overseas visitors than expected after a strong summer season before the war, he said. The US, Brazil, and Australia, home to many Lebanese, are urging their citizens to reconsider travelling to Lebanon.

"We don't know really if in the next few months we can look at a summer season that will pump back billions of dollars into the economy," he said, uncertain if the diaspora will stay away.

Israeli forces and Lebanon's Hezbollah have for months traded fire across Lebanon's southern border, which the Iran-backed group says is in support of its Palestinian ally Hamas.

Hamas launched a cross-border attack on Israel from Gaza on Oct. 7 that left around 1,200 people dead, with more than 200 taken hostage, of which around 100 have been released.

In retaliation, Israel has bombed and invaded Gaza with the aim, its government says, of destroying the Iran-backed Hamas, which rules the coastal enclave of some 2.5 million people. The military operations have killed more than 29,000 Palestinians.

"Lebanon is not just affected by the war in Palestine and Gaza. Lebanon is in a state of war. We are losing our land," Salam said.

Salam said the southern border fighting had weakened Lebanon's exports with about $2.5 billion in agricultural land, trees and goods damaged or destroyed so far in the strikes.

He said the government was seeking international assistance to rehabilitate farmland damaged by the fighting.

"It will take years and it will take a lot of money, so definitely we will be seeking international community to aid us in rehabilitating all the areas," Salam said.

Lebanon's economy began to unravel in 2019 after decades of profligate state spending and corruption.


Israel’s Air Force Strikes Deep Inside Lebanon, Killing 2 People, After Hezbollah Downs Drone 

Smoke rises from the southern Lebanon's village of Blida as a result of an Israeli airstrike, as seen from an undisclosed location in northern Israel, 25 February 2024. (EPA)
Smoke rises from the southern Lebanon's village of Blida as a result of an Israeli airstrike, as seen from an undisclosed location in northern Israel, 25 February 2024. (EPA)
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Israel’s Air Force Strikes Deep Inside Lebanon, Killing 2 People, After Hezbollah Downs Drone 

Smoke rises from the southern Lebanon's village of Blida as a result of an Israeli airstrike, as seen from an undisclosed location in northern Israel, 25 February 2024. (EPA)
Smoke rises from the southern Lebanon's village of Blida as a result of an Israeli airstrike, as seen from an undisclosed location in northern Israel, 25 February 2024. (EPA)

The Israeli military says its air force on Monday struck targets of the militant Hezbollah group “deep inside Lebanon,” where residents reported explosions near the northeastern city of Baalbek. At least two people were killed in the strikes, a Hezbollah official said. 

The strikes are among the deepest into Lebanon since the Israel-Hamas war began more than four months ago. They come a day after Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant vowed to step up attacks on Lebanon’s Hezbollah even if a cease-fire is reached with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. 

Lebanese security officials said Israel’s air force carried out three airstrikes on the outskirts of the village of Buday, near Baalbek, targeting a convoy of trucks. Buday is a Hezbollah stronghold. 

A Hezbollah official confirmed that three strikes hit near Baalbek. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters. He said the strikes killed at least two people and that one hit a warehouse for food products that's part of Hezbollah's Sajjad Project that sells to people in its stronghold at prices lower than on the market. 

The Israeli army said further details would follow. 

The airstrikes near Baalbek came hours after Hezbollah said its fighters on Monday shot down an Israeli drone over its stronghold in a province in southern Lebanon. Another missile fired by Hezbollah toward the drone was intercepted by Israel, and landed near a synagogue in a town close to Nazareth in northern Israel. There were no injuries or damage. 

Hezbollah has been exchanging fire with Israeli troops along the border since the Israel-Hamas broke on Oct. 7. 

The strike on Baalbek, because of its location deep inside Lebanon, is the most significant one since the early January airstrike on Beirut that killed top Hamas official Saleh Arouri. 

Hezbollah, which has been exchanging fire with Israel throughout the war in Gaza, has said it will halt its near-daily attacks on Israel if a cease-fire is reached in Gaza. 

But Gallant, the Israeli defense minister, said Sunday that anyone who thinks a temporary ceasefire for Gaza will also apply to the northern front is “mistaken.” 

Western diplomats have brought forward a series of proposals for a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah, most of which would hinge on Hezbollah moving its forces 7-10 kilometers (4-6 miles) away from the border. 

This will come in addition to a beefed-up Lebanese army presence, and negotiations for Israeli forces to withdraw from disputed points along the border where Lebanon says Israel has been occupying small patches of Lebanese territory since it withdrew from the rest of country's south in 2000. 

Hezbollah has signaled willingness to entertain the proposals but has said there will be no deal in Lebanon before there is a ceasefire in Gaza.