2 Months after Tragedy, Families of Tripoli Boat Sinking Victims Still Waiting to Recover Their Bodies

Angry mourners at the funeral of the victims of the boat sinking in Tripoli on April 25. (EPA)
Angry mourners at the funeral of the victims of the boat sinking in Tripoli on April 25. (EPA)
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2 Months after Tragedy, Families of Tripoli Boat Sinking Victims Still Waiting to Recover Their Bodies

Angry mourners at the funeral of the victims of the boat sinking in Tripoli on April 25. (EPA)
Angry mourners at the funeral of the victims of the boat sinking in Tripoli on April 25. (EPA)

Two months have passed since the sinking of a migrant boat off the shores of the Lebanese northern city of Tripoli that was carrying more than 70 people. However, the bodies of dozens of persons are still at the bottom of the sea, as Lebanese authorities have been unable to recover them.

Reports of a submarine brought in by a Lebanese association in Australia to retrieve the bodies were followed by the families with little hope and a lot of skepticism.

Ameed Dandashi lost his three children in the tragedy, when he was attempting to emigrate with his family from Lebanon towards Europe on April 23. His surviving wife is unable to speak from the shock. She hasn't spoken a word since.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “I can no longer look at the sea, nor approach it. We are not talking about what happened because it is beyond our capacity to bear. Our life is a real hell. We do not sleep, eat or drink, and we are suffer from psychological trauma. They burned our hearts and deprived us of hearing the word dad and mom. They are monsters.”

Ameed and his wife miraculously escaped drowning, but the couple lost all their children: Assad (40 days), Jawad (8 years), and Fidaa (5 years). These children are still missing, along with dozens of other people.

The army managed to rescue 45 people after the accident, and retrieved six bodies. Estimates suggest that 23 people are still unaccounted for.

Dandashi, who is in charge of communications with the concerned authorities on behalf of the families of the victims, said that the submarine that is expected to retrieve the boat and the bodies was donated by Lebanese immigrants in Australia. It was sent by a Lebanese association there, and is owned by an Indian company based in Spain.

He added that the submarine would not reach the shores of Beirut before July 13.

The arrival of the vessel has been repeatedly delayed. The brother of the missing, Mohammad al-Hamwi, says: “We have been waiting for two months.”

“All we want is for them to bring us the bodies of our dead so we can bury them in peace,” said Mazen Monzer Talib, 24, who is waiting to recover the bodies of his mother, 48, father 48, older brother, 26, and younger brother, 10.

Mazen put his only surviving brother, 12, in the custody of his married sister, who was supposed to join them.

“Only my father knew the details of the trip. He told us to pack just two hours before departure. My mother was the most enthusiastic, and she did not object. We wanted to get to Greece and then Italy, and then we would manage,” Mazen said.

He lives alone today in his home, after the death of his parents and brothers.

“Yes, I work, but I suffer from asthma and cannot buy my medicine. My father was sick… He was hospitalized several times, and we could not find medicine for him. Our goal was to reach a safe country.”



Southern Lebanon: Recruitment Ground for Hezbollah Fighters

Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike on the outskirts of the southern Lebanese village of Alma al-Shaab near the border on May 22, 2024. (AFP)
Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike on the outskirts of the southern Lebanese village of Alma al-Shaab near the border on May 22, 2024. (AFP)
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Southern Lebanon: Recruitment Ground for Hezbollah Fighters

Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike on the outskirts of the southern Lebanese village of Alma al-Shaab near the border on May 22, 2024. (AFP)
Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike on the outskirts of the southern Lebanese village of Alma al-Shaab near the border on May 22, 2024. (AFP)

Southern Lebanon, a Hezbollah stronghold, has long been where the Iran-backed Shiite party recruits new members.

Since the eruption of the war on Gaza in October and Hezbollah joining the fight against Israel, the party has lost 308 members: 50 from the eastern Bekaa region and rest from the South.

The figure reflects the extent to which the residents of the South are involved in this war and have been involved in all wars waged by Hezbollah against Israel from the South.

Israel occupied southern Lebanon for years until 2000 so the residents of the area are more involved in the conflict than other people, especially Shiites who live in other regions but who are also supporters of Hezbollah and its ally the Shiite Amal movement.

The movement has lost 18 members in the war so far.

A study by Information International showed that since the eruption of the conflict in the South and until May 22, the 305 Hezbollah members killed in the fighting hail from 142 cities and villages. The majority, 12, hail from Kfarkila, nine from each of Aita al-Shaab and Markaba, and eight from each of Aitaroun, Blida and al-Tayba. All of these areas are in the South.

Fifty-two percent of the dead are aged between 20 and 35.

Political analyst and Hezbollah critic Ali al-Amine, who also hails from the South, said the majority of Hezbollah fighters who have been killed in the fighting are from the region.

This is primarily because the majority of Shiites in Lebanon are from the South where Hezbollah has heavy military, security and social presence, he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Moreover, the nature of the war does not demand the participation of a large number of fighters. The party is launching rockets, while Israel is retaliating with targeted assassinations and strikes.

So, Hezbollah had no need to call up fighters or recruit new ones, in contrast to the war in Syria where it deployed its members more heavily on the ground, added al-Amine.

On how much the residents of the South will be able to withstand the human and material losses of the war, he explained that Hezbollah is the ruling security, political and economic authority in the South. The locals have no other side, except for the party, to turn to that can compensate them for these losses.

He revealed that relatives of any victim, whether killed or injured, will receive direct compensation of $25,000, a permanent salary, health insurance and other benefits from the party.

No one is objecting to this because the relatives would not only have lost their loved ones, but also stand to lose the financial assistance from Hezbollah, he went on to say.

Furthermore, al-Amine noted that beyond the relatives of the victims, “Lebanese society is not really concerned with Hezbollah’s fight. The Shiite general public also doesn’t believe that this war represents them.”

“They see it as limited to the job Hezbollah has always told them it is carrying out and that is preventing a war and protecting towns from Israeli aggression. However, the opposite is actually happening. Villages have been destroyed and nothing has been protected. Hezbollah became embroiled in a war without taking into account the opinions of the people and their interests,” he stressed.


Lebanon Front: Drones Define ‘War of Attrition’

Israeli strike targets a Hezbollah site (Reuters)
Israeli strike targets a Hezbollah site (Reuters)
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Lebanon Front: Drones Define ‘War of Attrition’

Israeli strike targets a Hezbollah site (Reuters)
Israeli strike targets a Hezbollah site (Reuters)

Israel has increased its operations in Lebanon, systematically targeting Hezbollah sites and assassinating field commanders. In response, Hezbollah has attacked key Israeli sites.

Both sides have been using new weapons, especially offensive drones, in this ongoing “war of attrition” since October 8.

Hezbollah is sticking to the current rules of engagement to avoid a wider war that Israel seems to be provoking. At the same time, Israel has expanded its airstrikes across southern Lebanon, including the outskirts of Sidon and the Bekaa Valley, areas linked to Hezbollah.

Recently, an Israeli airstrike in the Zahrani area of Sidon killed a Hezbollah member and two Syrian children. Israel has also increased raids on southern towns like Najjarieh and Adlousieh, which are near Sidon and far from the Israeli-Lebanese border.

Israel’s public broadcaster reported that military officials say Iran has provided Hezbollah with advanced air defense systems, based on images from a recently targeted military site.

In response, Hezbollah has deployed new weapons to demonstrate its combat capabilities and create a new “balance of terror” with Israel.

Hezbollah announced it used an armed drone with two S-5 missiles to attack a military site in Metula, northeastern Israel, before the drone exploded. The group also released a video showing the drone approaching the site, launching the missiles, and then exploding.

This introduction of new weapons by Hezbollah doesn’t mean they are preparing to fully open the southern front. Instead, it’s a message to Israel that any military action will be very costly.

Riad Kahwaji, Director of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, told Asharq Al-Awsat that Hezbollah has not used all its weapons from the start.

Instead, it has set its own rules of engagement, limiting its operations to a specific front with Israel.

Kahwaji pointed out that Hezbollah still uses Katyusha and Grad rockets, along with a more powerful modified Grad rocket called the “Burkan.”

He added that Hezbollah’s use of tactical weapons, like Kornet anti-tank missiles, is more effective. This is because the damage from Katyusha and Grad rockets is limited due to Israel’s Iron Dome, which can destroy these rockets in the air.

Hezbollah is filming its attacks on Israeli sites near the Lebanese border for two key reasons:

First, to show its supporters that it can strike back and inflict damage on Israel, responding to the assassinations of its leaders.

Second, to psychologically impact the Israeli side.

Recently, Hezbollah reported targeting an Israeli military position at Rwaisat al-Qarn in the Shebaa Farms with a guided missile, causing fires at the site.

Kahwaji explained that Hezbollah’s use of guided missiles and kamikaze drones has effectively caused Israeli casualties. He added that as targets get closer to the Lebanese border, Israel’s ability to intercept these attacks decreases.


Divisions, Elections and Assad Lay Bare Europe's Syrian Quagmire

This handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) shows Syrian refugees returning from Lebanon to their country through the al-Zamrani crossing on May 14, 2024. (Photo by SANA / AFP)
This handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) shows Syrian refugees returning from Lebanon to their country through the al-Zamrani crossing on May 14, 2024. (Photo by SANA / AFP)
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Divisions, Elections and Assad Lay Bare Europe's Syrian Quagmire

This handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) shows Syrian refugees returning from Lebanon to their country through the al-Zamrani crossing on May 14, 2024. (Photo by SANA / AFP)
This handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) shows Syrian refugees returning from Lebanon to their country through the al-Zamrani crossing on May 14, 2024. (Photo by SANA / AFP)

The European Union will convene donors next week to keep Syria on the global agenda, but as the economic and social burden of refugees on neighboring countries mounts the bloc is divided and unable to find solutions to tackle the issue, diplomats say.
Syria has become a forgotten crisis that nobody wants to stir amid the war raging between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas group and tensions growing between Iran and Western powers over its regional activities.
More than 5 million refugees mostly in Lebanon and Türkiye and millions more displaced internally have little prospect of returning home with political stability no closer than since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's rule began in 2011, Reuters said.
Funding to support them is dropping with the likes of the World Food Programme reducing its aid. Difficulties to host refugees are surfacing, notably in Lebanon, where the economic situation is perilous and a call to send Syrians home is one of the rare issues that unites all communities.
"We have no levers because we never resumed relations with the Assad regime and there are no indications anybody really will," said a former European envoy to Syria.
"Even if we did, why would Syria offer carrots to countries that have been hostile to him and especially taking back people who opposed him anyway."
Major European and Arab ministers along with key international organizations meet for the 8th Syria conference next Monday, but beyond vague promises and financial pledges, there are few signs that Europe can take the lead.
The talks come just ahead of the European elections on June 6-9 in which migration is a divisive issue among the bloc's 27-member states. With far-right and populist parties already expected to do well, there is little appetite to step up refugee support.
The conference itself has changed from eight years ago. The level of participation has been downgraded. The likes of Russia, the key actor backing Assad, is no longer invited after its invasion of Ukraine. The global geopolitical situation and drop in the conflict's intensity keeps it off radars.
There are divisions within the EU on the subject. Some countries such as Italy and Cyprus are more open to having a form of dialogue with Assad to at least discuss possible ways to step up voluntary returns in conjunction with and under the auspices of the United Nations.
However, others, like France which acknowledges the pressure the refugees are weighing on Lebanon and fears broader conflict between Iran-backed Hezbollah and Israel, remain steadfast that there can be no discussion with the Assad regime until key conditions are met.
DEPORTATION TO EU MIGRATION
But the reality on the ground is forcing a discussion on the issue.
Demonstrating the tensions between the EU and the countries hosting refugees, Lebanese MPs threatened to reject the bloc’s 1 billion euro package announced earlier this month, slamming it as a “bribe” to keep refugees in limbo in Lebanon instead of resettling them permanently in Europe or sending them back home to Syria.
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who unlike in previous years is not due to attend the Brussels conference, has said that Beirut would start dealing with the issue itself without proper international assistance.
The result has been an upswing in migrant boats from Lebanon to Europe, with nearby Cyprus and increasingly Italy, too, as the main destinations, prompting some countries to ring alarm bells fearing a flood of new refugees into the bloc.
"Let me be clear, the current situation is not sustainable for Lebanon, it's not sustainable for Cyprus and it's not sustainable for the European Union. It hasn't been sustainable for years," Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides said this month during a visit to Lebanon.
Highlighting the divisions in Europe, eight countries - Austria, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Malta and Poland - last week issued a joint statement after talks in Cyprus, breaking ranks with the bloc's previous positions.
They argued that the dynamics in Syria had changed and that while political stability did not exist yet, things had evolved sufficiently to "re-evaluate the situation" to find "more effective ways of handling the issue."
"I don't think there will be a big movement in terms of EU attitude, but perhaps some baby steps to engage and see if more can be done in various areas," said a diplomat from one of the countries that attended the talks in Cyprus.
Another was more blunt.
"Come Tuesday Syria will be swept under the carpet and forgotten. The Lebanese will be left to deal with the crisis alone," said a French diplomat.


Mines, Unexploded Ordnance a Daily Menace for Afghanistan's Children

Children gather around a crater after Afghan deminers from the Halo Trust detonated an anti-tank mine in Ghazni province. Wakil KOHSAR / AFP
Children gather around a crater after Afghan deminers from the Halo Trust detonated an anti-tank mine in Ghazni province. Wakil KOHSAR / AFP
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Mines, Unexploded Ordnance a Daily Menace for Afghanistan's Children

Children gather around a crater after Afghan deminers from the Halo Trust detonated an anti-tank mine in Ghazni province. Wakil KOHSAR / AFP
Children gather around a crater after Afghan deminers from the Halo Trust detonated an anti-tank mine in Ghazni province. Wakil KOHSAR / AFP

The black mushroom cloud had barely faded in Ghazni province before kids clustered around the edge of the crater created by the mine, one of the devices that kills a child every other day in Afghanistan.
Afghans have been able to return to fields, schools and roads since the Taliban authorities ended their insurgency and ousted the Western-backed government in 2021, said AFP.
But with new freedom of movement comes the danger of remnants left behind after 40 years of successive conflicts.
Nearly 900 people were killed or wounded by leftover munitions from January 2023 to April this year alone, most of them children, according to UN figures.
The anti-tank mine had been 100 meters from Qach Qala village, south of the provincial capital Ghazni, since the Soviet invasion from 1979 to 1989.
Deminers from the British organization Halo Trust cautiously unearthed then detonated it, the explosion echoing three kilometers (nearly two miles) around.
But before it was set off, a Taliban member roared up to the deminers on his motorcycle.
“Give me that mine!" he demanded. "I'll keep it safe at home. We can use it later when Afghanistan is occupied again."
The mine couldn't be "so dangerous since it hadn't exploded all these years", he insisted, before being pushed back by the deminers.
The Taliban government "is very supportive of demining in this country and wants to conduct clearance as far as it possibly can", said Nick Pond, head of the Mine Action Section of UNAMA, the United Nations mission in Afghanistan.
Demining began in Afghanistan as early as 1988 but, over decades of wars, the country has been re-infested with mines and ordnance.
"It is almost impossible at the moment to predict what the scale of current contamination is," Pond told AFP.
Eighty-two percent of those killed or wounded by the remnant weapons since January 2023 were children, with half of cases involving children playing.
The village of Nokordak, nestled in a bucolic valley, lost two children in late April.
Surrounded by her small children, Shawoo told of how her 14-year-old son Javid was killed by unexploded ordnance.
"He threw a stone at it. He hit it once, then a second time. The third time, the device exploded."
The boy died almost instantly.
The same explosion killed Javid's friend Sakhi Dad, also 14.
"People said there were explosive ordnances around, but nothing like this had ever happened in the village before," said Sakhi Dad's 18-year-old brother, Mohammad Zakir, a lost look in his eyes.
"No one had come to the village to warn the children of the danger."
'Lack of funds'
In Patanaye village, 50 kilometers away, 13-year-old Sayed showed his wounded hand and foot, still in bandages after the explosion in late April that killed his brother Taha, 11, as they were tending their sheep.
"Three, four times I pulled it from his hands. I was shouting at him but he kicked me and hit it on a rock," Sayed told AFP.
These kinds of accidents are all too common, said their father Siraj Ahmad.
Tomorrow, "someone else's son could be killed or handicapped for the rest of their life", he said.
Zabto Mayar, Halo's explosive ordnance disposal officer, said "lack of funds" was a major challenge their work.
So deminers work painstakingly plot by plot, depending on donations.
"The mine action workforce was once 15,500 people around 2011. It is currently 3,000," said Pond.
Other global conflicts have pulled funding away, while Afghanistan has also seen donors pull back after the Taliban takeover, their government unrecognized by any other country.
Mistaken for gold
But Mohammad Hassan, headmaster of a small school in the Deh Qazi hamlet, is still counting on the deminers.
"Even the schoolyard is dangerous for the children because it is not cleared of mines," he said.
"We can't even plant trees here. If we dig, if we bring a tractor or machines to work here, it is really dangerous," he said.
Children in a classroom listened to a lesson aimed at preventing such accidents, the wall plastered with charts of mines or ordnance of all shapes and colors.
"Six months ago on a walk with my friends, we saw a rocket and we immediately told the village elders and they informed the deminers," said 12-year-old Jamil Hasan.
Mines and ordnance can look like playthings to children, said Pond.
The Soviet-era butterfly mine (PFM-1), for example, with its winged shape, "is very attractive to pick up", he said.
Children are also drawn to the "beautiful and modern colors" used in munitions, said Halo unit commander Sayed Hassan Mayar.
Some colors are also deceiving, such as golden-topped ammunition that can look like precious metal to people hunting for scrap to sell in the impoverished country.
"The children usually think it might be gold, and they hit it with a stone or a hammer to take the top part," Pond said.
Danger from remnants of war is also omnipresent for deminers. Halo lost two of their number in early May.
"Sometimes when I go defusing mines, I call my family and tell them I love them, just in case anything happens," said Zabto Mayar.


From Wedding Photographer to Water Queue: Gaza Mother Mourns Lost Dream Life

(MAJDI FATHI/NURPHOTO/GETTY IMAGES)
(MAJDI FATHI/NURPHOTO/GETTY IMAGES)
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From Wedding Photographer to Water Queue: Gaza Mother Mourns Lost Dream Life

(MAJDI FATHI/NURPHOTO/GETTY IMAGES)
(MAJDI FATHI/NURPHOTO/GETTY IMAGES)

Falasteen Abdulati mourns her vanished good life as a wedding photographer as she wearily queues day after day for scarce drinking water in a rubble-strewn street in south Gaza, fearing for the future of her children.

The mother of seven is one of over two million Gazans who struggle to survive in the eighth month of an Israeli siege and invasion after the cross-border Hamas attack, with food, drinking water, medical care and safe shelter hard to find.

"I'm a wedding photographer. Someone like me should be going out and living well and spending money on their children," Abdulati, 35, said, laboriously filling a few buckets with water from a battered barrel in the city of Khan Younis.

"Our life has (been reduced) to the simplest needs. It is work and exhaustion. Nothing else. The dream that I had as a wedding photographer to open a studio and to get cameras and to make people happy, is lost. My dream is lost."

She continued: "Every morning we wake up at 7 o’clock and of course the first thing we think about is water," she said, Reuters reported. "We come here and wait in the long queue, just to fill up four buckets with water. Other than that, our shoulders hurt. There are no men to carry it for us. There is no one but us. Women are the ones working these days."

Israel's assault on the tiny, heavily urbanized coastal enclave has displaced over three-quarters of the 2.3 million Palestinian population and demolished its infrastructure.

"The future of my children that I worked tirelessly for is lost. There are no schools (functioning), no education. There is no more comfort in life," said Abdulati.

"No safety," she added, referring to the threat of shelling or raids that Israel says target Hamas militants holed up in densely-packed residential neighbourhoods.

Abdulati, dressed in a body-length robe and head-covering, said the upheaval of war had turned the lives of Gaza women upside down. "Women are now like men. They work hard just like men. They're no longer comfortable at home."

Her husband is hospitalized with war injuries.

Breathing heavily, she lugged her buckets along a shattered, sand-covered street and up a dingy flight of cement stairs into the family flat. There she heated up the fresh water over a makeshift fire stove in a cluttered, cramped room dark for lack of electricity, watched intently by her young children.

"We are suffering due to a lack of gas because the border crossings are shut," she said, referring to Israel's siege that has severely restricted humanitarian aid shipments into Gaza.

"The water that I filled up must be rationed. I heat it up so I can wash the children, in addition to doing the dishes and washing clothes. The four buckets I can get per day are just not enough. I have to go back again and again."


Israel’s Block of AP Transmission Shows How Ambiguity in Law Could Restrict War Coverage 

This picture shows a building that was destroyed during Israeli bombardment at the Al-Daraj neighborhood in Gaza City on May 21, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)
This picture shows a building that was destroyed during Israeli bombardment at the Al-Daraj neighborhood in Gaza City on May 21, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)
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Israel’s Block of AP Transmission Shows How Ambiguity in Law Could Restrict War Coverage 

This picture shows a building that was destroyed during Israeli bombardment at the Al-Daraj neighborhood in Gaza City on May 21, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)
This picture shows a building that was destroyed during Israeli bombardment at the Al-Daraj neighborhood in Gaza City on May 21, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)

Israel's shutdown and seizure of an Associated Press video camera that provided a live glimpse into Gaza alarmed many journalists, who worried Tuesday about wider implications for coverage of a war largely fought out of the world's sight to begin with.

After widespread condemnation, including a call by the Biden administration for Israel to back off, authorities returned the AP's equipment late Tuesday. Israel had justified its move by saying the agency violated a new media law that bans Al Jazeera, since the Qatari satellite channel is one of thousands of customers that receive live AP video.

By early Wednesday, the AP’s live video of Gaza was back up in Israel.

The camera confiscated earlier, located in the southern Israeli town of Sderot, was not the only one the AP operated in Israel or Gaza — the company would not say how many it uses regularly — nor is the AP the only news organization to do so. Agence France-Presse confirmed it has frequently used such cameras in Israel and also sells its images to Al Jazeera.

“Israel's move to restrict AP's work today is extremely concerning and a clear attack on press freedom,” said Phil Chetwynd, AFP's global news director.

News organizations expressed worry about the potential ambiguity in how Israel's law could be enforced. What, they asked, prevents Israel from shutting down the news cooperative's operations in the country altogether?

“It also could allow Israel to block media coverage of virtually any news event on vague security grounds,” Israel's Foreign Press Association said in a statement.

OTHERS ARE LIKELY WATCHING ISRAEL'S ACTIONS Israel also denies foreign journalists entry into Gaza to cover a war that began following Hamas' Oct. 7 attacks inside the Jewish state, and has been criticized for not doing enough to protect Palestinian journalists and civilians.

The country “seems to be grasping at anything that hurts Al Jazeera,” said Thomas Kent, former president and CEO of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and an international consultant on media ethics. Its latest step damages a reputable news organization at a time the country would seem to want independent news coverage, Kent said.

A democracy acting in this way also sends a disturbing signal to authoritarian countries, he said. “You have to look at the larger picture,” said Kent, also a former standards editor and international correspondent at the AP. “They're giving fuel to other countries that would love to seize equipment and shut down transmissions.”

The move against the AP set off a debate within Israel. Yair Lapid, opposition leader to the Netanyahu government, called it an “act of madness.” Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, who accused the AP of violating the country’s law, said it clearly states that any device used to deliver content to Al Jazeera could be seized.

“We will continue to act decisively against anyone who tries to harm our soldiers and the security of the state, even if you don’t like it,” Karhi responded to Lapid on X.

The AP's camera in Sderot was operated 24 hours a day and was also attended by staff members. A staffer can be used to move or focus the camera to cover news that may be happening, and also to avoid capturing military moves. The AP says it complies with military censorship rules that prohibit the broadcast of troop movements that could endanger soldiers.

STATIONARY CAMERAS ARE COMMON News organizations frequently place cameras that can operate remotely at various places around the globe, either in an area where news is happening or simply to provide a view of a city skyline.

These shots have many uses — providing a backdrop for a television station reporting on developments, or as a livestream feature on a website. Earlier in the Gaza war, footage from such cameras helped news organizations conduct forensic investigations into who was responsible for a military strike on a Palestinian hospital.

The AP is the biggest supplier of live video news coverage to newsrooms across the world, said AP Vice President Paul Haven, the agency's head of news gathering.

“Our live video provides a window of what's happening around the world on any given day, allowing audiences to see events for themselves as they unfold,” Haven said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said it was “deeply disturbed” by Israel's actions on Tuesday. Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ program director, said the country should allow all international media outlets, including Al Jazeera, to operate freely in the country.

While Israel's return of the equipment is a positive development, the underlying issue has not disappeared.

“We remain concerned about the Israeli government's use of the foreign broadcaster law and the ability of independent journalists to operate freely in Israel,” said AP spokeswoman Lauren Easton.


Death of Iran’s Raisi Could Stir Race for Khamenei Succession, Insiders Say 

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei receives President Ebrahim Raisi and members of the government in August. (dpa)
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei receives President Ebrahim Raisi and members of the government in August. (dpa)
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Death of Iran’s Raisi Could Stir Race for Khamenei Succession, Insiders Say 

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei receives President Ebrahim Raisi and members of the government in August. (dpa)
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei receives President Ebrahim Raisi and members of the government in August. (dpa)

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi's death in a helicopter crash upsets the plans of hardliners who wanted him to succeed Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and will stir rivalries in their camp over who will take over the country when he dies.

A protege of Khamenei who rose through the ranks of Iran's theocracy, Raisi, 63, was widely seen as a leading candidate to take over from the 85-year-old Supreme Leader - though it was far from being a foregone conclusion in Iran's opaque politics.

His rise to the presidency was part of a consolidation of power in the hands of hardliners dedicated to shoring up the pillars of the Islamic Republic against the risks posed by dissent at home and powerful enemies in a turbulent region.

Raisi had enjoyed staunch backing from Khamenei, who had himself held the position of president before he became Supreme Leader in 1989 following the death of the Islamic Republic's founder, Khomeini.

The Supreme Leader holds ultimate power in Iran, acting as commander-in-chief of the armed forces and deciding on the direction of foreign policy, defined largely by confrontation with the United States and Israel.

While Khamenei has not endorsed a successor, Iran watchers say Raisi was one of the two names most often mentioned, the second being Khamenei's second son, Mojtaba, who is widely believed to wield influence behind the scenes.

Raisi, backed by a group that wanted to see him become Supreme Leader, clearly wanted the role, said Vali Nasr, professor of Middle East Studies and International Affairs at John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

"Now they don't have a candidate, and that opens the door for other factions or other figures to emerge as serious contenders," he said.

For Raisi, a mid-ranking Shiite cleric, the presidency had been a vehicle to reach the supreme leadership. "There's no other candidate right now (with) that kind of a platform and that's why the presidential elections in Iran, however they unfold, will be the first decider about what comes next," Nasr said.

'BLOW TO THE ESTABLISHMENT'

Raisi's views echoed Khamenei's on every major topic and he enacted the leader's policies aimed at entrenching clerical power, cracking down on opponents, and adopting a tough line on foreign policy issues such as the nuclear talks with Washington, two Iranian insiders said.

The hardliners maintained their grip in a parliamentary election held in March, but turnout sunk to the lowest level since the revolution.

Critics saw this as reflecting a crisis of legitimacy for the clerical elite, amid mounting economic struggles and dissent among Iranians chafing at the social and political restrictions which drove months of protests ignited by the death of a young woman arrested by the morality police in 2022.

Though his name has often been cited, doubts have swirled over the possible candidacy of Mojtaba, a mid-ranking cleric who teaches theology at a religious seminary in the city of Qom.

Khamenei has indicated opposition to his son's candidacy because he does not want to see any slide back towards a system of hereditary rule in a country where the US-backed monarchy was overthrown in 1979, an Iranian source close to Khamenei's office said.

A regional source familiar with the thinking in Tehran said Khamenei's opposition to hereditary rule would eliminate both Mojtaba and Ali Khomeini, a grandson of the Islamic Republic's founder who is based in Najaf, Iraq.

A former Iranian official said powerful actors including the Revolutionary Guards and influential clerics in Qom are now expected to step up efforts to shape the process by which the next supreme leader is picked.

"Raisi's death is a blow to the establishment that has no other candidate now," the official said, adding that while it was believed Raisi had been groomed to succeed Khamenei, nobody knew for sure what Khamenei's intentions were.

UNCERTAINTY IN THE SUCCESSION

Khamenei had not been a clear favorite for the role in 1989 and only emerged after backroom dealings among the clerical elite.

Under Iran's constitution, the Supreme Leader is appointed by the Assembly of Experts, an 88-member clerical body that supervises and in theory can sack the Supreme Leader.

While the Assembly is chosen in an election, another hardline watchdog body comprising clerics and jurists aligned to Khamenei has the power to veto laws and decide who may stand.

Two sources familiar with the matter said the Assembly of Experts had taken Raisi off a list of potential successors some six months ago because of his sagging popularity, reflecting economic hardship caused by US sanctions and mismanagement.

One of the sources said intensive lobbying had been underway by influential, pro-Raisi clerics to get his name reinstated.


What's Next for Iran's Government after Death of its President in Helicopter Crash?

The Iranian flag is seen flying over a street in Tehran, Iran, February 1, 2023. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
The Iranian flag is seen flying over a street in Tehran, Iran, February 1, 2023. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
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What's Next for Iran's Government after Death of its President in Helicopter Crash?

The Iranian flag is seen flying over a street in Tehran, Iran, February 1, 2023. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
The Iranian flag is seen flying over a street in Tehran, Iran, February 1, 2023. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights

The death of Iran's president is unlikely to lead to any immediate changes in Iran's ruling system or to its overarching policies, which are decided by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

But Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash Sunday, was seen as a prime candidate to succeed the 85-year-old supreme leader, and his death makes it more likely that the job could eventually go to Khamenei's son, The AP reported.

A hereditary succession would pose a potential crisis of legitimacy for the Islamic Republic, which was established as an alternative to monarchy but which many Iranians already see as a corrupt and dictatorial regime. Here's a look at what comes next.

HOW DOES IRAN'S GOVERNMENT WORK?

Iran holds regular elections for president and parliament with universal suffrage.

But the supreme leader has final say on all major policies, serves as commander-in-chief of the armed forces and controls the powerful Revolutionary Guard.

The supreme leader also appoints half of the 12-member Guardian Council, a clerical body that vets candidates for president, parliament and the Assembly of Experts, an elected body of jurists in charge of choosing the supreme leader.

In theory, the clerics oversee the republic to ensure it complies with Islamic law. In practice, the supreme leader carefully manages the ruling system to balance competing interests, advance his own priorities and ensure that no one challenges the Islamic Republic or his role atop it.

Raisi, a hard-liner who was seen as a protege of Khamenei, was elected president in 2021 after the Guardian Council blocked any other well-known candidate from running against him, and turnout was the lowest in the history of the Islamic Republic. He succeeded Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate who had served as president for the past eight years and defeated Raisi in 2017.

After Raisi's death, in accordance with Iran's constitution, Vice President Mohammad Mokhber, a relative unknown, became caretaker president, with elections mandated within 50 days. That vote will likely be carefully managed to produce a president who maintains the status quo.

That means Iran will continue to impose some degree of Islamic rule and crack down on dissent. It will enrich uranium, support armed groups across the Middle East and view the West with deep suspicion.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR SUCCESSION?

Presidents come and go, some more moderate than others, but each operates under the structure of the ruling system.

If any major change occurs in Iran, it is likely to come after the passing of Khamenei, when a new supreme leader will be chosen for only the second time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Khamenei succeeded the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, in 1989.

The next supreme leader will be chosen by the 88-seat Assembly of Experts, who are elected every eight years from candidates vetted by the Guardian Council. In the most recent election, in March, Rouhani was barred from running, while Raisi won a seat.

Any discussion of the succession, or machinations related to it, occur far from the public eye, making it hard to know who may be in the running. But the two people seen by analysts as most likely to succeed Khamenei were Raisi and the supreme leader's own son, Mojtaba, 55, a Shiite cleric who has never held government office.

WHAT HAPPENS IF THE SUPREME LEADER'S SON SUCCEEDS HIM?

Leaders of the Islamic Republic going back to the 1979 revolution have portrayed their system as superior.

The transfer of power from the supreme leader to his son could spark anger, not only among Iranians who are already critical of clerical rule, but supporters of the system who might see it as un-Islamic.

Western sanctions linked to the nuclear program have devastated Iran's economy. And the enforcement of Islamic rule, which grew more severe under Raisi, has further alienated women and young people.

The Islamic Republic has faced several waves of popular protests in recent years, most recently after the 2022 death of Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested for allegedly not covering her hair in public. More than 500 people were killed and over 22,000 were detained in a violent crackdown.

Raisi's death may make the transition to a new supreme leader trickier, and it could spark more unrest.

 

 

 

 

 

 


What Happens after ICC Prosecutor Seeks Warrants in Israel-Gaza Conflict?

 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives to his Likud party faction meeting at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem May 20, 2024 (Reuters)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives to his Likud party faction meeting at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem May 20, 2024 (Reuters)
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What Happens after ICC Prosecutor Seeks Warrants in Israel-Gaza Conflict?

 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives to his Likud party faction meeting at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem May 20, 2024 (Reuters)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives to his Likud party faction meeting at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem May 20, 2024 (Reuters)

The International Criminal Court prosecutor's office has requested arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his defense chief, and also for three Hamas leaders for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. Here is a look at what happens next, and how the ICC prosecutor's move might impact diplomatic relations and other court cases focused on Gaza.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT AT ICC?

Prosecutor Karim Khan's request goes to a pre-trial chamber. The chamber will be composed of three magistrates: presiding judge Iulia Motoc of Romania, Mexican judge Maria del Socorro Flores Liera and judge Reine Alapini-Gansou of Benin. There is no deadline for judges to decide whether to issue arrest warrants. In previous cases, judges have taken anywhere from just over a month to several months.

If the judges agree there are "reasonable grounds" to believe war crimes or crimes against humanity have been committed, they will issue an arrest warrant. The warrant must name the person, the specific crimes for which an arrest is sought and a statement of facts which are alleged to constitute those crimes.

Judges can amend arrest warrant requests and grant only portions of what the prosecutor is seeking. Charges can also be changed and updated later.

Israeli and Hamas leaders have dismissed allegations of committing war crimes, and representatives of both sides criticized Khan's decision.

WILL NETANYAHU AND THE HAMAS LEADERS BE ARRESTED?

The ICC's founding Rome statute combined with jurisprudence from past cases involving arrest warrants against sitting heads of state oblige all 124 ICC signatory states to arrest and hand over any individual subject to an ICC arrest warrant if they set foot on their territory. However, the court has no means to enforce an arrest. The sanction for not arresting someone is a referral back to the ICC's assembly of member states and ultimately a referral to the U.N. Security Council.

CAN AN ICC INVESTIGATION OR WARRANT BE PAUSED?

The court's rules allow for the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution that would pause or defer an investigation or a prosecution for a year, with the possibility of renewing that indefinitely.

In past cases where a state has ignored its obligation to arrest an individual facing an ICC warrant, they have received a procedural slap on the wrist at most.

CAN NETANYAHU AND HAMAS CHIEF YAHYA SINWAR STILL TRAVEL?

Yes they can. Neither the application for a warrant nor the issuance of an ICC arrest warrant curbs an individual's freedom to travel. However, once an arrest warrant has been issued, they risk arrest if they travel to an ICC signatory state, which may influence their decision-making.

There are no restrictions on political leaders, lawmakers or diplomats from meeting individuals with an ICC arrest warrant against them. Politically, however, the optics of this may be bad.

WILL THIS APPLICATION FOR WARRANTS INFLUENCE OTHER CASES?

Not directly, but perhaps indirectly. The ICC application is a separate matter to, for example, court cases demanding an arms embargo against Israel or South Africa's attempts at the International Court of Justice to seek a halt to Israel's offensive on Rafah.

If the judges decide there are reasonable grounds to believe Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant are committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza, it could strengthen legal challenges demanding an arms embargo elsewhere as numerous states have provisions against selling arms to states who might use them in ways that violate international humanitarian law.


Iranian FM Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, a Hard-Line Diplomat, Dies in Helicopter Crash

The Iranian national flag flies at half-mast at the Iranian consulate, following the deaths of Iran's President Raisi and Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian, in Karachi, Pakistan, 20 May 2024. (EPA)
The Iranian national flag flies at half-mast at the Iranian consulate, following the deaths of Iran's President Raisi and Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian, in Karachi, Pakistan, 20 May 2024. (EPA)
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Iranian FM Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, a Hard-Line Diplomat, Dies in Helicopter Crash

The Iranian national flag flies at half-mast at the Iranian consulate, following the deaths of Iran's President Raisi and Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian, in Karachi, Pakistan, 20 May 2024. (EPA)
The Iranian national flag flies at half-mast at the Iranian consulate, following the deaths of Iran's President Raisi and Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian, in Karachi, Pakistan, 20 May 2024. (EPA)

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Iran's foreign minister and a hard-liner close to the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard who confronted the West while also overseeing indirect talks with the US over the country's nuclear program, died in the helicopter crash that also killed the country's president, state media reported Monday. He was 60.

Amir-Abdollahian represented the hard-line shift in Iran after the collapse of Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers after then President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the accord. Amir-Abdollahian served under President Ebrahim Raisi, a protege of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and followed their policies.

He was close to Iran's Revolutionary Guard, once praising the late Gen. Qassem Soleimani, slain in a US drone strike in Baghdad in 2020.

Amir-Abdollahian served in the Foreign Ministry under Ali Akbar Salehi in 2011 through 2013. He then returned for several years under Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who was a key player in the nuclear deal reached under the administration of the relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani.

But Zarif and Amir-Abdollahian had a falling out, likely over internal differences in Iran's foreign policy. Zarif offered him the ambassadorship to Oman, but he refused.

He became foreign minister under Raisi with his election in 2021. He backed the Iranian government position, even as mass protests swept the country in 2022 after the death of Mahsa Amini, a woman who had been detained earlier over allegedly not wearing a headscarf to the liking of authorities. The monthslong security crackdown that followed the demonstrations killed more than 500 people and saw more than 22,000 detained.

In March, a UN investigative panel found that Iran was responsible for the “physical violence” that led to Amini’s death.

During the Israel-Hamas war, Amir-Abdollahian met with foreign officials and the leader of Hamas. He also threatened retaliation against Israel and praised an April attack on Israel. He also oversaw Iran's response to a brief exchange of airstrikes with Iran's nuclear-armed neighbor Pakistan and worked on diplomacy with the Taliban in Afghanistan, with whom Iran had tense relations.

Amir-Abdollahian is survived by his wife and two children.