Israel: Cyber War with Iran is Unparalleled

A broken Ethernet cable is seen in front of binary code, and the words "cyber security" (Reuters)
A broken Ethernet cable is seen in front of binary code, and the words "cyber security" (Reuters)
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Israel: Cyber War with Iran is Unparalleled

A broken Ethernet cable is seen in front of binary code, and the words "cyber security" (Reuters)
A broken Ethernet cable is seen in front of binary code, and the words "cyber security" (Reuters)

Israeli defense and cyber intelligence unit commanders announced that the conflict with Iran has no parallel in the cyber-realm.

They explained that since its outbreak in 2013, this war has become increasingly complex, noting that Israel is the strongest party, but the enemy must never be underestimated.

Colonel Uri Stav, deputy head of the 8200's offensive unit, and Colonel Omer Grossman, Vice President of the same brigade for defense affairs, said Iran's offensive capabilities are also improving.

Iran is also activating several of its arms and militias, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, and it mobilizes support in this field for the Islamic Jihad and Hamas organizations in Palestine.

Stav said: "One of the challenges is that Iran supports organizations that are on our borders but are physically distant from us. When it comes to cyberwarfare, distance doesn't exist."

He explained that Iran managed to sabotage the water system in Israel, disrupting it for several hours, and even tried to poison the water, but Israel responded to the attack.

But Stav adds that the level of its performance is still very far from the Israeli level.

For his part, Grossman admitted that the enemy must never be underestimated, as a rule.

"But I can say with full confidence that the abilities on our side are infinitely higher. This is not the same league at all, not even the same sport. To date, there has been no functional damage to our systems due to attacks by Iran."

The threat, he estimates, will increase in the coming years.

Unit 8200, which was initially made of five people, including a secretary and a driver, has become the most significant military brigade and includes among its ranks soldiers and officers more employees and agents in the Mossad and the Shin Bet combined.

It cooperates with its US counterpart, the "National Security Agency" (NSA).

The two cyber units in the Israeli army were established as an emergency cell 11 years ago and detected in 2014, the first Iranian major cyber war attack during the "Protective Edge" war on Gaza.

The Iranian-backed attack, executed by the "Syrian Electronic Army" at the time, managed to hack the Twitter account of the Israeli army's English spokesperson.

The hackers warned of a possible nuclear leakage in the region after two missiles hit the Dimona nuclear reactor, but Israel repaired the damage within a few minutes.

Some reports were published about this cyber war but did not receive the importance they deserved at that time. However, experts have conducted several types of research on the subject.

Director of the cybersecurity program at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, Colonel Gabi Siboni, said there is an excellent possibility that this Iranian cyber advance in the Protective Edge would mark the beginning of cyber warfare, which will replace classic terrorism as a central tool in Iran war with Israel.

Siboni warned that the threat is that cyber-attacks against Israel will be able to strike the domestic front, adding that Iran is rapidly and subtly close to "bridging the gap" in cyber technology with Israel.

"We should not be naive," said the commander of the cyber unit.

The Iranian axis is constantly looking for loopholes in the armor of the Israeli army and the cyber field.

He warned that in the coming wars, cyber capabilities would be more critical than in previous wars, asserting Israel's readiness to repel and respond more than ever.



Shelter Centers for Migrants Drive Increasing Anger in Mauritania

A migrant from sub-Saharan Africa on a boat off the coast of Mauritania (AFP)
A migrant from sub-Saharan Africa on a boat off the coast of Mauritania (AFP)
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Shelter Centers for Migrants Drive Increasing Anger in Mauritania

A migrant from sub-Saharan Africa on a boat off the coast of Mauritania (AFP)
A migrant from sub-Saharan Africa on a boat off the coast of Mauritania (AFP)

An approaching deal on migration between Mauritania and the European Union continues to raise concerns among Mauritanians, especially after posts on social media warned that the new agreement could turn the country into a large detention camp for migrants deported from Europe.
On Wednesday, the Mauritanian government strongly denied the claims.
Government spokesperson Ould Chrougha said that Mauritania will not be a country of resettlement for migrants.
He considered that rumors circulating about the migration agreement between Mauritania and the EU have no goal but to intimidate citizens.
The concerns among Mauritanians came amidst meetings held in the past 10 days between the Interior Ministry in Nouakchott and an EU delegation to reach a draft joint declaration on migration. The new deal is expected to be signed in Nouakchott early this month, the Mauritanian government announced a few days ago.
On Wednesday, the government spokesperson revealed that Mauritania was the side that demanded the establishment of a cooperative framework with the EU on migration due to its geographical location and regional conditions, adding that the discussion is still ongoing.
Chrougha pointed out that since 2003, Mauritania had an agreement with Spain to manage migration. He said that for objective reasons, it called for canceling or updating this agreement, which the two parties have begun working on.
As part of the 2003 agreement, Spain would send civil guards to help the Mauritanian authorities patrol the coast and conduct interdiction operations at sea to limit irregular migration flows from west African countries, including Mauritania, to the Canary Islands.
It was clear from Chrougha’s comments that Mauritania aims to conclude an agreement on migration with the EU that serves the country’s interests. Mauritania bears heavy costs due to the waves of illegal migrants and refugees who fled a renewed outbreak of violence in neighboring Mali.
Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Nouakchott has lately adopted a new approach to manage the migration file.
It wants to push Europeans to shoulder part of the burden of fighting migration.
This new policy was particularly adopted after a statistic on foreigners conducted by Mauritanian authorities last year, revealed “worrying” figures.
The figures even prompted President Mohamed Ould Cheikh Ghazouani to address the issue during a meeting with a high-ranking European delegation in Nouakchott a few days ago.
The President affirmed that “Mauritania was previously a transit country for migrants. However, it is starting to turn into a permanent country of residence.”
Mauritanian Interior Minister Mohamed Ahmed Ould Mohamed Lemine also addressed the issue during a meeting of Arab Interior Ministers.
He said that Mauritania receives tens of thousands of refugees from Mali, and waves of illegal migrants coming from sub-Saharan countries dreaming of a better life in Europe. He said his country is paying a high cost for hosting those refugees.
Although the government is exerting efforts to address the migration file, Mauritanians still fear that their country would turn into a large detention camp for migrants deported from Europe. These concerns drove lately a flood of fake news across social media platforms.
And while officials repeatedly deny the presence of any migration camps in the country, some local movements are still not convinced.
Lately, the Kafana opposition movement called for a protest against any deal between Mauritania and the EU, calling it a “deal to naturalize migrants in Mauritania.”

 

 


Strasbourg Christmas Market Terror Attack Trial Kicks Off

Police forces stand guard next to the Paris criminal court for the beginning of the trial over the terror attack at the Strasbourg Christmas market in December 2018, in Paris, France, 29 February 2024 (EPA)
Police forces stand guard next to the Paris criminal court for the beginning of the trial over the terror attack at the Strasbourg Christmas market in December 2018, in Paris, France, 29 February 2024 (EPA)
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Strasbourg Christmas Market Terror Attack Trial Kicks Off

Police forces stand guard next to the Paris criminal court for the beginning of the trial over the terror attack at the Strasbourg Christmas market in December 2018, in Paris, France, 29 February 2024 (EPA)
Police forces stand guard next to the Paris criminal court for the beginning of the trial over the terror attack at the Strasbourg Christmas market in December 2018, in Paris, France, 29 February 2024 (EPA)

The trial of four men suspected of having played a key role in supplying weapons to the perpetrator of the December 2018 shootings at the Strasbourg Christmas markets began on Thursday.

Five people were killed and 11 others injured after a gunman opened fire near a crowded Christmas market in the eastern French city of Strasbourg. The four men are suspected of having played a key role in supplying weapons to the perpetrator of the December 2018 attack.

Chérif Chekatt, 29, opened fire with a 19th-century revolver on 11 December in the historic centre.

After the attack, he hailed a taxi to the south of the city. After a 48-hour manhunt, he was killed in a shootout with police.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the Strasbourg attack via its Amaq news agency. Later, Chekatt pledged allegiance to ISIS in a video found in his apartment.

Chekatt, who was born and raised in the city, attacked passersby with a gun and knife at three different locations in the shadow of the city’s cathedral, where the Christmas market attracts millions of visitors each year.

Chekatt had a long criminal record with more than 20 convictions for theft and violence. He had spent several spells in jail and was on a watchlist of radicalised former prisoners, according to The Guardian.

The trial is due to last until April 5.

Four French men, aged between 34 and 43, are on trial in Paris. Three – Stéphane Bodein and Frédéric Bodein, brothers who buy and sell used cars, and Christian Hoffmann, an unemployed mechanic – are accused of involvement by helping to procure weapons.

Only one of the defendants, Audrey Mondjehi-Kpanhoue, 43, a former security guard who had been a cellmate of Chekatt, is facing terrorism charges and could face life in prison.

A fifth man, aged 84, will not appear for health reasons, and is likely to be tried separately at a later date.

The trial will hear accounts of survivors and the families of those killed, including a father who had fled Afghanistan and was visiting the market with his children, as well as a Thai tourist. Dozens of survivors were left with life-changing injuries and psychological trauma, The Guardian said.

One survivor, now working as a teacher in Paris, said how the attack changed her life forever after two of her friends were shot in front of her.

The woman in her 30s, who asked not to be named, described how she had just handed in her PhD thesis and was working as a student journalist on a radio station at the European parliament in Strasbourg.


US Senate Defeats Bid to Stop F-16 Fighter Jet Sale to Türkiye

A Turkish F-16 fighter jet participates in an air show in Istanbul on September 21, 2021. (EPA)
A Turkish F-16 fighter jet participates in an air show in Istanbul on September 21, 2021. (EPA)
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US Senate Defeats Bid to Stop F-16 Fighter Jet Sale to Türkiye

A Turkish F-16 fighter jet participates in an air show in Istanbul on September 21, 2021. (EPA)
A Turkish F-16 fighter jet participates in an air show in Istanbul on September 21, 2021. (EPA)

The US Senate on Thursday soundly defeated an effort to stop the $23 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets and modernization kits to Türkiye, which President Joe Biden's administration approved after Türkiye approved Sweden's joining the NATO alliance.
The Senate voted 79 to 13 against a resolution of disapproval of the sale introduced by Republican Senator Rand Paul, Reuters said.
Before the vote, Paul criticized Türkiye's government and said allowing the sale would embolden its "misbehavior." Backers of the sale said it was important for Washington to keep its word to a NATO ally.
The Biden administration formally informed Congress on Jan. 26 of its intention to proceed with the sale of 40 Lockheed Martin F-16s and nearly 80 modernization kits to Türkiye, a day after Ankara fully completed ratification of the NATO membership of Sweden.
The sale had been held up for months over issues including Türkiye's refusal to approve Sweden's accession to the military alliance. Türkiye first asked to make the purchase in October 2021.
The US Arms Export Control Act gives Congress the right to stop a major weapons sale by passing a resolution of disapproval in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Although the law has been in effect for half a century, no such resolution has both passed Congress and survived a presidential veto.
Sweden and Finland applied to enter NATO after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. While Finnish membership was sealed last year, Sweden's bid had been held up by Türkiye and Hungary. All NATO members need to approve applications from countries seeking to join the alliance.


Hardliners Set to Tighten Grip in Iran Vote as Frustration Mounts

People walk past campaign posters for the parliamentary election during the last day of election campaigning in Tehran, Iran, February 28, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
People walk past campaign posters for the parliamentary election during the last day of election campaigning in Tehran, Iran, February 28, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
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Hardliners Set to Tighten Grip in Iran Vote as Frustration Mounts

People walk past campaign posters for the parliamentary election during the last day of election campaigning in Tehran, Iran, February 28, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
People walk past campaign posters for the parliamentary election during the last day of election campaigning in Tehran, Iran, February 28, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

Iran began voting for a new parliament on Friday, seen as a test of the clerical establishment's popularity at a time of growing frustration over economic woes and restrictions on political and social freedoms.
State TV said polling started at 8 a.m. (0430 GMT), and it is scheduled to last for 10 hours but can be extended.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has called voting a religious duty, was the first to cast his vote in Iran.
"Vote as soon as possible ... today the eyes of Iran's friends and ill-wishers are on the (election) results. Make friends happy and disappoint enemies," Khamenei said.
The election is the first formal measure of public opinion after anti-government protests in 2022-23 spiraled into some of the worst political turmoil since the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
Iran's rulers need a high turnout to repair their legitimacy, damaged after nationwide protests.
But with heavyweight moderates and conservatives staying out of the race and reformists calling it an "unfree and unfair election", the contest is between hardliners and conservatives who proclaim loyalty to Iran revolutionary ideals and official polls suggest only about 41% of Iranians will vote.
Ballots will mostly be counted manually, so the final result may not be announced for three days, although partial results may appear on Saturday.
Iranian activists and opposition groups are distributing the Twitter hashtags #VOTENoVote and #ElectionCircus widely on social media, arguing that a high turnout will legitimize Iran.
"I'm seeking a change in regime, and I've decided not to vote as it would only serve to reinforce Iran’s hold," said university student Mehran, 22, in the central city of Isfahan. "I want to live freely."
Imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Narges Mohammadi, a women's rights advocate, has called the election a "sham".
Khamenei has accused the country's "enemies" - a term he normally uses for the United States and Israel - of trying to create despair among Iranian voters.
Tehran housewife Zahra, 26, said she would vote because “the world will understand that we support our leader (Khamenei) as he said voting is our duty".
The interior ministry said 15,200 candidates will run for the 290-seat parliament, which has scant impact on Iran's foreign policy and nuclear row with the West, since these are determined by Khamenei.
Many pro-reform Iranians still have painful memories of the handling of nationwide unrest sparked by the death in custody of a young Iranian-Kurdish woman in 2022, which was quelled by a violent crackdown involving mass detentions and even executions.
Economic hardships pose another challenge. Many analysts say that large numbers of Iranians no longer think the ruling clerics capable of resolving an economic crisis caused by a mix of US sanctions reimposed after the failure to revive Iran's nuclear deal, mismanagement and corruption.
The parliamentary election is twinned with a vote for the 88-seat Assembly of Experts, an influential body that has the task of choosing the 84-year-old Khamenei's successor.


Italy: Interior Minister Calls Violence Against Minors at Pro-Palestine Demo 'a Defeat'

Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi addresses the parliament in Rome, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse via AP)
Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi addresses the parliament in Rome, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse via AP)
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Italy: Interior Minister Calls Violence Against Minors at Pro-Palestine Demo 'a Defeat'

Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi addresses the parliament in Rome, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse via AP)
Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi addresses the parliament in Rome, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse via AP)

Italy’s interior minister acknowledged as a “defeat” the use of police batons against high school students demonstrating in the Tuscan city of Pisa last week, while warning lawmakers Thursday of growing violent tendencies among pro-Palestinian demonstrators.
Italians have expressed outrage at police violence against two pro-Palestinian demonstrations in the Tuscan cities of Florence and Pisa last Friday; the one in Pisa included high school students who are minors, at least 11 of whom suffered bruises when police responded with batons, The Associated Press reported.
President Sergio Mattarella told the interior minister over the weekend that “the authority of law enforcement is not measured by truncheons but by its ability to ensure security while protecting, at the same time, the freedom to publicly express opinion. With kids, truncheons express failure.”
Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi told the lower house of parliament that in Pisa law enforcement reacted after demonstrators tried to beach a police barrier with “pushes, kicks, insults, spitting and attempts to remove the shields.” Seventeen demonstrators were injured, among them 11 minors, along with two police officers, he said.
"We all hope that public demonstrations take place peacefully and without incidents, and when it comes to physical contact with minors it is in any case a defeat,'' the minister said, underlining the need for a transparent investigation.
Video of the incident taken by bystanders shows half a dozen officers in riot gear brandishing wooden batons striking demonstrators in a narrow alley leading to a piazza. The officer in charge of the mobilization has been transferred, Italian media reported.
The minister said both the Pisa and the Florence demonstrations were illegal, having failed to file official notice of the intent to gather at least three days in advance.
In Florence, at least 300 protesters chanting anti-Israel and anti-American slogans attempted to reach the US Consulate, which had been the target of a firebomb attack on Feb. 2, the minister told lawmakers. At least five demonstrators were treated at hospitals, he said.
He noted a “climate of growing aggression toward law enforcement” in the pro-Palestinian demonstrations, with the apparent aim to provoke a police reaction. Incidents have been reported at 33 of the 1,076 demonstrations since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, he said.


Putin Warns West of Risk of Nuclear War

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual address to the Federal Assembly at the Gostiny Dvor conference center in Moscow, Russia, 29 February 2024. EPA/SERGEI ILNITSKY
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual address to the Federal Assembly at the Gostiny Dvor conference center in Moscow, Russia, 29 February 2024. EPA/SERGEI ILNITSKY
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Putin Warns West of Risk of Nuclear War

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual address to the Federal Assembly at the Gostiny Dvor conference center in Moscow, Russia, 29 February 2024. EPA/SERGEI ILNITSKY
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual address to the Federal Assembly at the Gostiny Dvor conference center in Moscow, Russia, 29 February 2024. EPA/SERGEI ILNITSKY

President Vladimir Putin warned Western countries on Thursday that there was a genuine risk of nuclear war if they sent their own troops to fight in Ukraine, and he said Moscow had the weapons to strike targets in the West.
Addressing parliament and other members of the country's elite, Putin, 71, repeated his accusation that the West is bent on weakening Russia, and he suggested Western leaders did not understand how dangerous their meddling could be in what he cast as Russia's own internal affairs.
He prefaced his warning with a specific reference to an idea, floated by French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday, of European NATO members sending ground troops to Ukraine - a suggestion that was quickly rejected by the United States, Germany, Britain and others.
"(Western nations) must realize that we also have weapons that can hit targets on their territory. All this really threatens a conflict with the use of nuclear weapons and the destruction of civilization. Don't they get that?!" said Putin.
Putin, who was speaking ahead of a March 15-17 presidential election when he is certain to be re-elected for another six-year term, lauded what he said was Russia's vastly modernized nuclear arsenal, the largest in the world, Reuters reported.
The war in Ukraine has triggered the worst crisis in Moscow's relations with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and Putin has previously warned of the dangers of a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia.
Visibly angry, Putin, Russia's paramount leader for more than two decades, suggested Western politicians recall the fate of those, like Nazi Germany's Adolf Hitler and France's Napoleon Bonaparte who unsuccessfully invaded his country in the past.
"But now the consequences will be far more tragic," said Putin. "They think it (war) is a cartoon," he said.


Poland Detains Russian Citizen Accused of Being an ISIS Member in Syria

27 February 2024, Poland, Warsaw: Farmers wave Polish flags during farmers protest in downtown Warsaw against the European Union's agricultural policies. Photo: Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
27 February 2024, Poland, Warsaw: Farmers wave Polish flags during farmers protest in downtown Warsaw against the European Union's agricultural policies. Photo: Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
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Poland Detains Russian Citizen Accused of Being an ISIS Member in Syria

27 February 2024, Poland, Warsaw: Farmers wave Polish flags during farmers protest in downtown Warsaw against the European Union's agricultural policies. Photo: Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
27 February 2024, Poland, Warsaw: Farmers wave Polish flags during farmers protest in downtown Warsaw against the European Union's agricultural policies. Photo: Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa

Poland's Internal Security Agency (ABW) has detained a Russian citizen accused of being a member of ISIS, the National Prosecutor's Office said in a statement on Thursday.

"The prosecutor... charged the detainee with being part of armed groups in the Syrian Arab Republic aimed at committing crimes of a terrorist nature," the prosecutor's office said in a statement.

It said that the accused had been a part of Jabhat Al-Nusra and al-Qaeda before joining ISIS.
The man is being held in pre-trial detention for three months and if found guilty could face eight years in prison.


Ukraine Repels Russian Attacks but Situation is Difficult

This grab taken from video released by the head of the Russian-controlled Donetsk region Denis Pushilin's telegram channel on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, shows damaged buildings, after Russian forces completed their takeover of Avdiivka, eastern Ukraine. Russian-controlled Donetsk region. (Head of the Russian-controlled Donetsk region Denis Pushilin telegram channel via AP)
This grab taken from video released by the head of the Russian-controlled Donetsk region Denis Pushilin's telegram channel on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, shows damaged buildings, after Russian forces completed their takeover of Avdiivka, eastern Ukraine. Russian-controlled Donetsk region. (Head of the Russian-controlled Donetsk region Denis Pushilin telegram channel via AP)
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Ukraine Repels Russian Attacks but Situation is Difficult

This grab taken from video released by the head of the Russian-controlled Donetsk region Denis Pushilin's telegram channel on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, shows damaged buildings, after Russian forces completed their takeover of Avdiivka, eastern Ukraine. Russian-controlled Donetsk region. (Head of the Russian-controlled Donetsk region Denis Pushilin telegram channel via AP)
This grab taken from video released by the head of the Russian-controlled Donetsk region Denis Pushilin's telegram channel on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, shows damaged buildings, after Russian forces completed their takeover of Avdiivka, eastern Ukraine. Russian-controlled Donetsk region. (Head of the Russian-controlled Donetsk region Denis Pushilin telegram channel via AP)

Ukrainian forces have pushed back Russian troops from the village of Orlivka, west of Avdiivka, but the situation on the eastern front remains difficult, Ukrainian army chief Oleksandr Syrskyi said on Thursday.
Orlivka is less than 2 kilometers northwest of Lastochkyne, which was recently occupied by Russian forces, Reuters said.
Russian forces last week captured the strategic eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka after a months-long assault and are pressing on several other areas along the front line, Ukrainian authorities say.
Ukraine's military said this week it had withdrawn from two more villages near Avdiivka, losing more territory as support from its Western allies runs short.
"The enemy continues active offensive actions in many areas of the front line. The situation is particularly tense in the Avdiivka and Zaporizhzhia sectors," Syrskyi said on the Telegram messaging app.
He said Russian assault units were trying to break through the Ukrainian defenses and capture the settlements of Tonenke, Orlivka, Semenivka, Berdychi and Krasnohorivka.
Syrskyi, who visited troops on the eastern front, said some commanders had revealed certain shortcomings in their "situational awareness and assessment of the enemy", which directly affected the sustainability of defense in certain areas.
"I took all measures to remedy the situation on the ground, with the allocation of additional ammunition and material resources, as well as the necessary reserves," Syrskyi said.
The Ukrainian military and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy have repeatedly said that troops are lacking military equipment and ammunition needed to repel Russian attacks because of a shortage of military aid from Western allies.


Biden 'Continues to Be Fit for Duty,' His Doctor Says, after President Undergoes Annual Physical

US President Joe Biden looks on before speaking during a roundtable discussion on public safety at the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, US, February 28, 2024. REUTERS/Tom Brenner
US President Joe Biden looks on before speaking during a roundtable discussion on public safety at the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, US, February 28, 2024. REUTERS/Tom Brenner
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Biden 'Continues to Be Fit for Duty,' His Doctor Says, after President Undergoes Annual Physical

US President Joe Biden looks on before speaking during a roundtable discussion on public safety at the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, US, February 28, 2024. REUTERS/Tom Brenner
US President Joe Biden looks on before speaking during a roundtable discussion on public safety at the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, US, February 28, 2024. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

President Joe Biden “continues to be fit for duty,” his doctor wrote Wednesday after conducting an annual physical that is being closely watched as the 81-year-old seeks reelection in November.
Dr. Kevin O’Connor, Biden's physician, wrote that the president is adjusting well to a new device that helps control his sleep apnea and has experienced some hip discomfort but also works out five times per week, The Associated Press said.
“President Biden is a healthy, active, robust, 81-year-old male who remains fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency,” O’Connor said in a six-page memo on the president’s health, following a physical that took Biden to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for more than 2 1/2 hours.
His memo added that Biden “feels well and this year's physical identifies no new concerns.”
The oldest president in US history, Biden would be 86 by the end of a second term, should he win one. His latest physical mirrored one he had in February last year when O'Connor described Biden as “healthy, vigorous” and “fit” to handle his White House duties.
Still, voters are approaching this year’s election with misgivings about Biden’s age, having scrutinized his gaffes, his coughing, his slow walking and even a tumble off his bicycle.
After he returned to the White House on Wednesday, Biden attended an event on combating crime and suggested that when it came to his health “everything is squared away” and "there is nothing different than last year.”
He also joked about his age and people thinking "I look too young.”
Former President Donald Trump, 77, is the favorite to lock up the Republican nomination later this month, which would bring him closer to a November rematch against Biden. Trump was 70 when he took office in 2017, which made him the oldest American president to be inaugurated — until Biden broke his record by being inaugurated at 78 in 2021.
O'Connor's report said that Biden’s stiff walking was no worse than last year and was the result of arthritic changes in his spine. He said the president also noted “some increased left hip discomfort.” There were no signs of stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s or other similar conditions in what the report called an “extremely detailed neurologic exam.”
Biden, last summer, began using a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine at night to help with sleep apnea, and O'Connor wrote that the president had responded well to that treatment and is “diligently compliant" about using it.
A recent special counsel’s report on the investigation into Biden's handling of classified documents repeatedly derided Biden's memory, calling it “hazy,” “fuzzy,” “faulty,” “poor” and having “significant limitations.” It also noted that Biden could not recall defining milestones in his own life such as when his son Beau died or when he served as vice president.
Still, addressing reporters the evening of the report's release, Biden said "my memory is fine” and grew visibly angry as he denied forgetting when his son died of brain cancer in 2015 at the age of 46.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that O’Connor was one of a team of 20 different medical specialists who helped complete the physical.
Asked why Biden wasn't undergoing a cognitive test as part of the physical, Jean-Pierre said that O'Connor and Biden's neurologist “don't believe he needs one.”
“He passes a cognitive test every day, every day as he moves from one topic to another topic, understanding the granular level of these topics,” Jean-Pierre said, noting that Biden tackled such diverse issues as Wednesday's crime prevention event before his planned trip to the US-Mexico border on Thursday and next week's State of the Union address.
“This is a very rigorous job," she added.
That picture of the president doesn’t reflect the type of struggles with routine tasks that might indicate the need for further tests, said Dr. Michael Rosenbloom, a neurologist at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
“Constantly questioning older folks who may have an occasional lapse is a form of ageism,” Rosenbloom said.
From sleep apnea to arthritis, Biden’s health report “seems pretty run of the mill for an 81-year-old person,” said Dr. Jeffrey A. Linder, chief of general internal medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
“His doctors are in a unique position to assess his cognitive ability on a daily basis,” Linder said. "These doctors are able to see how he’s functioning day to day. That’s much more useful” than a cognitive assessment.
Many Americans, including Democrats, have expressed reservations about Biden seeking a second term during this fall's election. Only 37% of Democrats say Biden should pursue reelection, down from 52% before the 2022 midterm elections, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Biden counters that his age brings wisdom, and he has begun to criticize Trump for the former president’s recent public gaffes.
The president joked that his age was classified information and suggested during a taping in New York on Monday of “Late Night With Seth Meyers ″ that Trump mistakenly called his wife Melania, “Mercedes” during a weekend speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference -- though the Trump campaign says he was correctly referring to political commentator Mercedes Schlapp.
Trump has indeed had his share of verbal miscues, mixing up the city and state where he was campaigning, calling Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán the leader of Turkey and repeatedly mispronouncing the militant group Hamas as “hummus.” More recently, he confused his Republican primary rival Nikki Haley with former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
While he was president, Trump's annual physical in 2019 revealed that he had gained weight and was up to 243 pounds. With his 6-foot, 3-inch frame, that meant Trump's Body Mass Index was 30.4. An index rating of 30 is the level at which doctors consider someone obese under this commonly used formula.
Wednesday's report listed Biden as 6-foot tall and weighing 178 pounds.


Canada Says It's Working to Airdrop Aid to the Gaza Strip as Soon as Possible

A plane drops aid over Gaza, amid the ongoing the conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 27, 2024. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
A plane drops aid over Gaza, amid the ongoing the conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 27, 2024. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
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Canada Says It's Working to Airdrop Aid to the Gaza Strip as Soon as Possible

A plane drops aid over Gaza, amid the ongoing the conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 27, 2024. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
A plane drops aid over Gaza, amid the ongoing the conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 27, 2024. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Canada is working to airdrop humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip as soon as possible, a cabinet minister said Wednesday.
The confirmation that an active effort is underway comes after Canadian International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said Ottawa was exploring new options to deliver aid, The Associated Press said.
He said the provision of airdrops in partnership with like-minded countries in the region, such as Jordan, was on the table.
Hussen said last week that the provision of aid is nowhere near what’s needed and a tedious inspection process was slowing down the movement of supplies brought in by truck.
He made the comments following a trip to the Rafah border crossing, the only way in or out of the Gaza Strip since the Israel-Hamas war began in October.
Canada has put $100 million Canadian ($74 million) toward aid for the besieged territory since the start of the conflict, including $40 million Canadian ($30 million) committed in January.