Dutch Rally to Support Iranian Protests

Thousands showed their support for Iranian protesters standing up to their leadership over the death of a young woman in police custody, during a demonstration in The Hague, Netherlands, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022.  (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Thousands showed their support for Iranian protesters standing up to their leadership over the death of a young woman in police custody, during a demonstration in The Hague, Netherlands, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
TT

Dutch Rally to Support Iranian Protests

Thousands showed their support for Iranian protesters standing up to their leadership over the death of a young woman in police custody, during a demonstration in The Hague, Netherlands, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022.  (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Thousands showed their support for Iranian protesters standing up to their leadership over the death of a young woman in police custody, during a demonstration in The Hague, Netherlands, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Thousands of people held a demonstration Saturday in The Hague in support of protesters in Iran who have taken to the streets since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini following her arrest by the morality police.

Protesters - gathered on a central park in the city - waved flags and banners emblazoned with texts including “No to enforced headscarf in Iran,” “Justice can’t wait” and “Stop bloodshed in Iran.”

Several lawmakers from parties across the Dutch political spectrum also attended.

Saturday’s demonstration follows anti-government protests across Iran that were sparked by Amini's death.

The Iranian protests have triggered demonstrations of support across Europe, including by women cutting off locks of their hair, following Iranian women's example.

Oscar-winning French actors Marion Cotillard and Juliette Binoche, as well as other French screen and music stars, filmed themselves chopping off locks of their hair in a video posted Wednesday.

Dutch Justice Minister Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius also cut off a lock of her hair during a live television talk show this week.

Anti-government demonstrations erupted Saturday in several locations across Iran.

Marchers chanted anti-government slogans and twirled headscarves. In some areas, merchants shuttered shops in response to a call by activists for a commercial strike or to protect their wares from damage.



Ukraine Sees ‘Big Risk’ of Losing War If US Congress Postpones Vital Aid

Ukrainian servicemen take part in anti-sabotage drills, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Chernihiv region, Ukraine December 5, 2023. (Reuters)
Ukrainian servicemen take part in anti-sabotage drills, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Chernihiv region, Ukraine December 5, 2023. (Reuters)
TT

Ukraine Sees ‘Big Risk’ of Losing War If US Congress Postpones Vital Aid

Ukrainian servicemen take part in anti-sabotage drills, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Chernihiv region, Ukraine December 5, 2023. (Reuters)
Ukrainian servicemen take part in anti-sabotage drills, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Chernihiv region, Ukraine December 5, 2023. (Reuters)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's chief of staff said on Tuesday that the postponement of US assistance for Kyiv being debated in Congress would create a "big risk" of Ukraine losing the war with Russia.

The remarks by Andriy Yermak were some of the frankest yet from a senior Kyiv official as uncertainty swirls over the future of vital US and European Union assistance packages as Ukraine's war with Russia rages on with no end in sight.

"If the help which (is) now debating in Congress will be just postponed...it gives the big risk that we can be in the same position to which we're located now," he said, addressing the audience in English.

"And of course, it makes this very high possibility impossible to continually liberate and give the big risk to lose this war."

White House officials said on Monday that the United States was running out of time and money to help Ukraine fight its war against Russia.

US President Joe Biden's administration asked Congress in October for nearly $106 billion to fund ambitious plans for Ukraine, Israel and US border security but Republicans who control the House with a slim majority rejected the package.

US officials hope they can still get a significant package approved.

Yermak singled out the threat of no more direct budgetary support as problem.

"Of course, without this direct budget support, it will be difficult to keep ... in same positions and to be for the people to really survive...during the situation when the war will continue," he said.

"That is why it is extremely critically important that this support will be voted and will be voted as soon as possible."

Yermak made the remarks on his second visit to Washington in a matter of weeks. He said he planned to press lawmakers and administration officials on the critical importance that Congress approve the new aid package.


At COP28 Summit, Activists and Officials Voice Concern over Gaza’s Environment, Devastated by War

Palestinians search for bodies and survivors among the rubble of a destroyed house following Israeli airstrikes on Deir Al Balah in the southern Gaza Strip, 05 December 2023. (EPA)
Palestinians search for bodies and survivors among the rubble of a destroyed house following Israeli airstrikes on Deir Al Balah in the southern Gaza Strip, 05 December 2023. (EPA)
TT

At COP28 Summit, Activists and Officials Voice Concern over Gaza’s Environment, Devastated by War

Palestinians search for bodies and survivors among the rubble of a destroyed house following Israeli airstrikes on Deir Al Balah in the southern Gaza Strip, 05 December 2023. (EPA)
Palestinians search for bodies and survivors among the rubble of a destroyed house following Israeli airstrikes on Deir Al Balah in the southern Gaza Strip, 05 December 2023. (EPA)

As leaders, officials and activists descend on Dubai for United Nations climate talks to discuss saving Earth, another environmental crisis is nearby, and it's raising concerns among summit participants.

Devastated by a nearly two-month-long assault by Israeli airstrikes and ground fighting, large swaths of Gaza have been flattened, agricultural lands have been destroyed, olive trees that have stood for generations are scorched and dwindling water resources are contaminated. Experts warn that white phosphorus — a chemical illegal under international law that a human rights group says is in used in Israeli operations — could also be detrimental to the environment, including the air and soil. Palestinians are worried that the land could take years to recover, and activists at the summit are tying the plight of Gazans to climate justice globally.

The Secretary-General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Jagan Chapagain warned during the summit that Gaza could "become an environmental catastrophe."

But with the destruction of much of Gaza's infrastructure and an exceptionally heavy human cost — over 15,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have been killed there since October — it's impossible for the country to give climate and environment the attention it needs, said Hadeel Ikhmais, a climate change expert with the Palestinian Authority, at the summit's first-ever State of Palestine Pavilion.

"We have policies, we have indices, we have ... a lot of strategies and plans, well developed. But now we have to rethink all of what we’ve been working for the last ten years because what happened in Gaza destroyed everything," she said. "We have to build the city all over again."

She asked: "What kind of climate justice are we talking about while all the people in Palestine are endangered and their lives are lost?"

Gaza's water has long been scarce — but the war has made it even more acute. Israel cut off water pipelines and electricity, meaning desalination plants couldn't run, leading to a host of health and sanitation concerns for residents. Agriculture in Gaza, mainly olive trees and citrus fruits as well as other plants, has been decimated because of water shortages and the devastation of the land.

White phosphorus, that human rights groups say was used in densely populated areas, is illegal under international law when used on civilians. It can set buildings on fire and burn human flesh. It poses health risks for survivors and can get deep into soil and water.

War also raises climate concerns: Militaries worldwide are responsible for 5.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Conflict and Environment Observatory and Scientists for Global Responsibility, and militaries are under no obligation to report or reduce their carbon footprint.

Climate activists, who largely support calls for a ceasefire and justice for Palestinians, have centered the issue in protests at the UN talks. They say that climate justice — the idea that saving Earth from hotter temperatures is linked to more just world for everyone, especially the most vulnerable — is inextricably linked with security and freedom for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation because both crises are fueled by colonization and capitalism.

"The Palestinian struggle is a struggle for self-determination and climate justice is a struggle for self-determination," said Katherine Robinson, a climate campaigner from South Africa. "There is no climate justice in occupied territories. There’s no climate justice during war and there’s no climate justice during apartheid."

Rania Harara, from the MENA feminist task force, agreed that climate justice goes hand in hand with Palestinian solidarity.

"We cannot sit here and talk about climate justice without talking about human rights," she said, to applause from the audience at an event on Saturday.

The war on Gaza is also affecting how much funding can be diverted to climate initiatives, said Mohamed Adow, the director of Power Shift Africa, a Nairobi-based climate and energy think-tank.

Adow says wars and conflict are using up much needed climate cash that could have otherwise been very useful to help protect vulnerable communities from climate disaster. He used the example of Ukraine, where he says trillions of dollars were sent at a time that the international community was struggling to mobilize a hundred billion for climate finance.

"Demilitarization across the world must be a key component of climate justice," Adow said.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry’s top diplomat for the Mideast, Oded Joseph, said Israel’s priority at the moment is fighting and protecting their civilians, with climate and environmental crises being dealt with "once we meet that objective".

The war began on Oct. 7 when an attack on Israel killed 1,200 people and was retaliated with a punishing weekslong air and later ground assault on the Gaza Strip with no end in sight. A nearly week-long temporary truce ended Friday.

But beyond the war, the wider occupation is still detrimental to efforts toward climate and environmental justice, activists say.

"Climate justice is inseparable from justice for Palestinians," said Dylan Hamilton, policy coordinator for the Alliance of Non-Governmental Radical Youth. "There can be no climate justice on occupied land."


Iran Hints at Responding to Attacks on its Forces in the Region

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani
TT

Iran Hints at Responding to Attacks on its Forces in the Region

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani

The Iranian Foreign Ministry on Monday hinted that it will respond to any attacks on its interests and “advisory forces” in the region.
The announcement came two days after the Iranian Revolutionary Guards said two of its military advisers in Syria have been killed in an Israeli attack, in the first reported Iranian casualties during the ongoing war in Gaza.
A Revolutionary Guards statement did not give details of the attack.
On Monday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani warned that attacks on Iranian interests and its “advisory forces” in Syria “will not go unanswered.”
In his weekly press conference, he reiterated Iran’s accusations against the United States, echoed by Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian during a press conference with his Omani counterpart Sayyid Badr al-Busaidi in Tehran on Saturday.
“The new round of Israeli military attacks and aggressions began when the US Secretary of State attended the Israeli war cabinet,” Kanaani said, accusing Washington of sending tons of bombs to Israel.
“America is a party to the war,” the spokesperson affirmed.
Iran Rejects US Accusations
Without mentioning the attacks launched by the pro-Iranian Houthi group on ships in the Red Sea, Kanaani described the US Central Command (CENTCOM) operating in the Middle East as “terrorists” and said that their presence “undermines regional security.”

Kanaani reiterated earlier statements that armed groups facing charges of ideological loyalty to his country, also known as the “axis of resistance,” do not take orders from Iran. “We offer them instructions. But, they represent their own people and make decisions based on their interests,” he affirmed.
The spokesperson then rejected reports accusing Iran of sending drones to the Houthis.
“These are propaganda claims that provide cover for the crimes of the Zionist entity,” he said, adding that Washington must stop its support for Israel.
On the nuclear deal, Kanaani said the Omani foreign minister had not delivered a US message to Iran. However, he welcomed Muscat's efforts to return to the commitments made in the 2015 nuclear deal in exchange for the lifting of US sanctions imposed on Iran.
Also, the spokesperson commented on the $6 billion recently transferred by the US to Qatar in a prisoner swap deal with Iran. “The US must fulfill its commitments,” he said, adding that Iran has received enough guarantees, because dealing with America is not based on trust.
“We can access these funds and use them according to our needs,” he added.
Kanaani also spoke about the recent statements of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi, as well as the phone call between Amirabdollahian and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell on Saturday evening.
“We expect Grossi to raise issues related to Iran's program from a technical standpoint away from political suspicions,” he said.
In the same context, Kanaani added: “It is remarkable that the European Union is taking unconstructive positions on issues related to the nuclear program and the IAEA. It is unfortunate that the Union is making unilateral accusations against Iran without paying attention to the US for evading its commitments and to Europe's inaction.”
On Saturday, Borrell expressed hope that constructive cooperation between Iran and the IAEA will continue, according to a statement by the Iranian Foreign Ministry.
The EU’s foreign policy chief later wrote on X that he spoke over the phone with Amirabdollahian, but did not address the nuclear talks, which have been stalled for over a year.
Borrell emphasized on a two-state solution to the longstanding Israel-Palestine conflict.
He added that he urged Iran to “use its influence and to actively work towards avoiding any further escalation in the region.”


Eight Dead as Cyclone Batters India's Southeast Coast

A resident wades through a flooded street after heavy rains in Chennai on December 4. R. Satish BABU / AFP
A resident wades through a flooded street after heavy rains in Chennai on December 4. R. Satish BABU / AFP
TT

Eight Dead as Cyclone Batters India's Southeast Coast

A resident wades through a flooded street after heavy rains in Chennai on December 4. R. Satish BABU / AFP
A resident wades through a flooded street after heavy rains in Chennai on December 4. R. Satish BABU / AFP

Chest-high waters surged down the streets of India's southern city Chennai on Tuesday with eight people killed in intense floods as Cyclone Michaung was set to make landfall on the southeast coast.
The cyclone was forecast to hit the coast of Andhra Pradesh state later Tuesday as a "severe cyclonic storm", packing winds up to 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
In Chennai, cars were seen floating on raging torrents, homes were flooded, and a crocodile was spotted swimming the streets in the city.
In some parts of the flooded city, people used boats to get out of their flooded neighborhoods to the safety of government relief shelters.
The IMD warned of "exceptionally heavy rainfall" in some areas.
"We are facing the worst storm in recent memory," Tamil Nadu state chief minister M.K. Stalin said, in a statement late Monday.
Police said on Tuesday that eight people had been killed in the state capital of Chennai.
They included some who drowned, as well as one person hit by a falling tree, another electrocuted by live wires in the water, and one crushed by a falling wall.
Trees were uprooted and vehicles swept away due to the heavy rains, according to images posted on social media.
Apple iPhone manufacturers Foxconn and Pegatron and automaker Hyundai suspended their operations in Tamil Nadu due to the storm, local media reported.
Emergency response
The cyclone is expected to hit India's southeast coast near the town of Bapatla, on the 300-kilometer (185-mile) stretch between Nellore and Machilipatnam.
Hundreds of people from coastal villages in the neighboring state of Andhra Pradesh have moved inland, with emergency rescue teams deployed to deal with the aftermath of the cyclone's landfall, according to local media.
Sea surges of waves up to 1.5 meters (nearly five feet) above normal tide levels are expected when the cyclone makes landfall, the IMD said.

Home Minister Amit Shah said the government was "braced to provide all the necessary assistance to Andhra Pradesh", with rescue teams deployed and more "on standby to mobilize as needed".
The cyclone is expected to weaken late Tuesday.
Scientists have warned that storms are becoming more powerful as the world gets warmer with climate change.
Cyclones -- the equivalent of hurricanes in the North Atlantic or typhoons in the Northwest Pacific -- are a regular and deadly menace on coasts in the northern Indian Ocean, where tens of millions of people live.


Four Children and an Adult Injured in Pakistan Blast

An Afghan security personnel stands guard at a fenced corridor of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in Spin Boldak district, Kandahar province on December 3, 2023. (Photo by Sanaullah SEIAM / AFP)
An Afghan security personnel stands guard at a fenced corridor of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in Spin Boldak district, Kandahar province on December 3, 2023. (Photo by Sanaullah SEIAM / AFP)
TT

Four Children and an Adult Injured in Pakistan Blast

An Afghan security personnel stands guard at a fenced corridor of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in Spin Boldak district, Kandahar province on December 3, 2023. (Photo by Sanaullah SEIAM / AFP)
An Afghan security personnel stands guard at a fenced corridor of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in Spin Boldak district, Kandahar province on December 3, 2023. (Photo by Sanaullah SEIAM / AFP)

Four children, aged 7 to 10, and an adult were injured in an explosion in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar early on Tuesday, hospital and rescue officials said.
Bilal Ahmad Faizi, the spokesman for emergency rescue services, said an improvised explosive device (IED) went off on a busy road in Peshawar at 9:10 a.m. (0410 GMT). He said five people, including four children, were injured, reported Reuters.
Two of the children were in critical condition, Mohammad Asim, a spokesman for the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
Peshawar's police chief, Mohammad Ashfaq Anwar, told Reuters that there was no indication school children were the target of the attack.
Peshawar, which straddles the edge of Pakistan's tribal districts bordering Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, is frequently targeted by Islamist militant groups including ISIS and the Pakistani Taliban.
In 2014, six Taliban militants attacked an army-run academy and killed 153 people, most of whom were students.


Khamenei Invites Cuba to Form ‘Global Alliance’ Against US

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei met in Tehran on Monday with visiting Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei met in Tehran on Monday with visiting Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel
TT

Khamenei Invites Cuba to Form ‘Global Alliance’ Against US

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei met in Tehran on Monday with visiting Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei met in Tehran on Monday with visiting Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel

Iran and Cuba on Monday pledged to strengthen their relations in various fields and to stand together in the face of US sanctions imposed on the two countries.
During a meeting with Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who is visiting Tehran for the first time, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called for a global coalition against what he called “US and Western arrogance.”
He said, “The numerous political and economic capacities of Iran and Cuba should be used to form an alliance and a coalition between countries that have the same stance against the coercive behaviors of the US and Western countries.”
The Supreme Leader’s website also quoted Khamenei as saying that, “By focusing on economic cooperation, this coalition can take a common and effective position on important global issues such as the Palestinian issue.”
Khamenei then noted that the position of the Cuban president on global issues, especially the issue of Palestine, is in line with the views of Iran.
During the meeting, Iran’s Supreme Leader also reflected on the meeting he had 22 years ago with Fidel Castro, the late leader of Cuba. “The Cuban Revolution and the personality of Mr. Castro always had a special appeal for Iranian revolutionaries before the victory of the Iranian Revolution and this was due to his honesty in his revolutionary positions,” he affirmed.
He added that “revolutionary honesty, revolutionary steadfastness and revolutionary seriousness" are the common features of the Cuban Revolution and the Iranian Revolution, even though Iran imposes a ban on the activities of leftist parties that participated in the revolution that overthrew the Shah's regime in 1979.
Meanwhile, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said during a joint statement with his visiting Cuban counterpart that, “There is a serious determination between the two countries to develop relations,” adding that "the common feature of the two countries is that they both stand against the system of domination.”
Cuba has been under a US embargo since 1962 and is included on the American list of countries supporting terrorism — like Iran, which is also subject to severe sanctions linked primarily to its nuclear program.
According to Raisi, “What can neutralize the sanctions is the exchange of capacities between the two countries,” referring to the policy that Khamenei has presented as a means to nullify Western sanctions targeting Tehran.
Diaz-Canel, who arrived in Tehran on Sunday after participating in the UN’s COP28 climate talks in Dubai, thanked Iran for supporting his country's “fight against the cruel embargo” imposed by the United States.
Seven memorandums of understanding and cooperation documents were signed between the two countries in a range of sectors, including science and technology, health, agriculture, energy and mining, communications and medicine.
Cuba is going through its worst economic crisis since the disappearance of Soviet subsidies in the 1990s.
Raisi visited Havana in June on the last stop of a tour of “friendly countries” in Latin America, which also included Venezuela.


US Running Out of Money for Ukraine, Could Hinder Fight against Russia, White House Warns

 Ukrainian servicemen of the 43rd Mechanized Brigade take part in a military training in an undisclosed location in the Kharkiv region on December 1, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (AFP)
Ukrainian servicemen of the 43rd Mechanized Brigade take part in a military training in an undisclosed location in the Kharkiv region on December 1, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (AFP)
TT

US Running Out of Money for Ukraine, Could Hinder Fight against Russia, White House Warns

 Ukrainian servicemen of the 43rd Mechanized Brigade take part in a military training in an undisclosed location in the Kharkiv region on December 1, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (AFP)
Ukrainian servicemen of the 43rd Mechanized Brigade take part in a military training in an undisclosed location in the Kharkiv region on December 1, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (AFP)

The Biden administration on Monday sent Congress an urgent warning about the need to approve tens of billions of dollars in military and economic assistance to Ukraine, saying Kyiv's war effort to defend itself from Russia's invasion may grind to a halt without it.

In a letter to House and Senate leaders and released publicly, Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young warned the US will run out of funding to send weapons and assistance to Ukraine by the end of the year, saying that would “kneecap” Ukraine on the battlefield.

She added that the US already has run out of money that it has used to prop up Ukraine's economy, and “if Ukraine’s economy collapses, they will not be able to keep fighting, full stop.”

“We are out of money — and nearly out of time,” she wrote.

President Joe Biden has sought a nearly $106 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other needs, but it has faced a difficult reception on Capitol Hill, where there is growing skepticism about the magnitude of assistance for Ukraine and where even Republicans supportive of the funding are insisting on US-Mexico border policy changes to halt the flow of migrants as a condition for the assistance.

Meanwhile, the GOP-controlled House has passed a standalone assistance package for Israel, which is fighting a war with Hamas in Gaza, while the White House has maintained that all of the priorities must be met.

Congress already has allocated $111 billion to assist Ukraine, including $67 billion in military procurement funding, $27 billion for economic and civil assistance and $10 billion for humanitarian aid. Young wrote that all of it, other than about 3% of the military funding, had been depleted by mid-November.

The Biden administration has said it has slowed the pace of some military assistance to Kyiv in recent weeks to try to stretch supplies until Congress approves more funding.

“We are out of money to support Ukraine in this fight,” Young wrote. “This isn’t a next year problem. The time to help a democratic Ukraine fight against Russian aggression is right now. It is time for Congress to act.”

The letter followed a classified Capitol Hill briefing on Nov. 29 for the top House and Senate leaders on the need for the assistance. Defense and other national security officials briefed the “big four” congressional leaders as Congress is debating Biden’s nearly $106 billion funding package, which includes $61 billion for Ukraine but has become snared by Republican demands for US-Mexico border security changes.

“They were clear that Ukraine needs the aid soon — and so does our military need the aid soon,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told The Associated Press in an interview.


Türkiye Warns of ‘Serious Consequences’ If Israel Tries to Target Hamas Officials Abroad

 Israeli soldiers watch a tank cross a road, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, near Israel's border with southern Gaza, in Israel, December 4, 2023. (Reuters)
Israeli soldiers watch a tank cross a road, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, near Israel's border with southern Gaza, in Israel, December 4, 2023. (Reuters)
TT

Türkiye Warns of ‘Serious Consequences’ If Israel Tries to Target Hamas Officials Abroad

 Israeli soldiers watch a tank cross a road, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, near Israel's border with southern Gaza, in Israel, December 4, 2023. (Reuters)
Israeli soldiers watch a tank cross a road, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, near Israel's border with southern Gaza, in Israel, December 4, 2023. (Reuters)

Türkiye warned Israel of "serious consequences" if it tries to hunt down Hamas members living outside Palestinian territories, including in Türkiye, a Turkish intelligence official said on Monday.

"Necessary warnings were made to the interlocutors based on the news of Israeli officials' statements, and it was expressed to Israel that (such an act) would have serious consequences," the official said.

Israel's public broadcaster Kan reported on Sunday that Israel would hunt down Hamas in Lebanon, Türkiye and Qatar even if it takes years, the head of Israel's domestic security agency Shin Bet said in a recording.

It was unclear when Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar made the remarks or to whom.


Biden’s Allies in Senate Demand That Israel Limit Civilian Deaths in Gaza as Congress Debates US Aid

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 8, 2023. (AP)
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 8, 2023. (AP)
TT

Biden’s Allies in Senate Demand That Israel Limit Civilian Deaths in Gaza as Congress Debates US Aid

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 8, 2023. (AP)
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 8, 2023. (AP)

As a ceasefire ticked down last week and Israel prepared to resume its round-the-clock airstrikes, Sen. Bernie Sanders and a robust group of Democratic senators had a message for their president: They were done "asking nicely" for Israel to do more to reduce civilian casualties in Gaza.

Lawmakers warned President Joe Biden’s national security team that planned US aid to Israel must be met with assurances of concrete steps from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-right government.

"The truth is that if asking nicely worked, we wouldn’t be in the position we are today," Sanders said in a floor speech. It was time for the United States to use its "substantial leverage" with its ally, the Vermont senator said.

"And we all know what that leverage is," he said, adding, "the blank-check approach must end."

With Biden’s request for a nearly $106 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other national security needs hanging in the balance, the senators’ tougher line on Israel has gotten the White House’s attention, and that of Israel.

Lawmakers of both major political parties for decades have embraced the US role as Israel’s top protector, and it's all but inconceivable that they would vote down the wartime aid. The Democratic lawmakers are adamant that’s not their intent, as strong supporters of Israel’s right of self-defense against Hamas. But just the fact that Democratic lawmakers are making that link signals the fractures in Congress amid the daily scenes of suffering among besieged Palestinian civilians.

Sanders and the Democratic senators involved say they are firm in their stand that Israel's military must adopt substantive measures to lessen civilian deaths in Gaza as part of receiving the supplemental's $14.3 billion in US aid for Israel's war.

The warning from friendly Democrats is a complication for the White House as it faces what had already been a challenging task of getting the supplemental aid bill through Congress. Some Republicans are balking at the part of the bill that provides funding for Ukraine's war against Russia, and the funding for Israel was supposed to be the easy part.

The demand is a warning of more trouble ahead for an Israeli government that's often at odds with the US in its treatment of Palestinians.

"There’s a big difference between asking and getting a commitment" from Netanyahu's government on a plan to reduce civilian casualties and improve living conditions in Gaza, Maryland Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen told The Associated Press. Van Hollen has been one of the key senators huddling with administration officials on the demands.

"So our goal is to achieve results," Van Hollen said. "And not just set expectations."

Following the senators' warning, the Biden administration has upped its own demands to Israel since late last week, insisting publicly for the first time that Israeli leaders not just hear out US demands to ease civilian suffering in Gaza, but agree to them.

Over the weekend, as an end to the ceasefire brought the return of Israeli bombardment and Hamas rocket strikes, the Israeli military said it had begun using one measure directed by the Biden administration: an online map of Gaza neighborhoods to tell civilians which crowded streets, neighborhoods and communities to evacuate before an Israeli attack.

Heavy bombardment followed the evacuation orders, and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip said they were running out of places to go in the sealed-off territory. Many of its 2.3 million people are crammed into the south after Israel ordered civilians to leave the north in the early days of the war, which was sparked by the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack in Israel that killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says more than 15,500 Palestinians have been killed, with 70% of them women and children.

On social media, Sanders repeated his call for an end to blank checks for Israel as Israeli forces returned to heavy bombing after the ceasefire.

While Secretary of State Antony Blinken said more measures were coming besides the online map, it wasn't clear if any would lessen civilian deaths or satisfy administration and lawmaker demands.

Israel is the top recipient of US military aid over time.

Trying to attach strings to US aid to Israel isn't unheard of, for Congress or for US presidents. Ronald Reagan, for instance, repeatedly suspended or threatened suspensions of fighter jet deliveries to Israel over its military incursions in the region in the 1980s. This time, though, is notable since it is being discussed in a Democratic-controlled Senate.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan and other White House officials huddled with the Senate Democrats over the warning. Israeli diplomats and military officials also rushed to stem such a move, hosting lawmakers for repeated viewings of video of Hamas atrocities on Oct. 7 to make the case for the US military aid.

Netanyahu’s coalition has weathered calls in the past from advocacy groups and individual lawmakers. Objections concerned Palestinian civilian deaths in past Israeli wars against Hamas.

Biden from the start adopted what came to be called his "bear-hug" approach to the Israeli leader — embracing him publicly, and saving any US appeals for changed behavior for private discussions. But when Biden told reporters on Nov. 24 he thought conditioning military aid to Israel was a "worthwhile thought," it helped the proposal gain traction among administration-friendly Democratic senators.

Sanders and the Democrats haven't specified what form the conditions could take, as talks continue. Several Democratic senators contend no additional law is necessary. They say existing US law already mandates that countries receiving US military aid heed human rights concerns.

Some Senate Democrats express dislike of the use of the term conditions and depict their action as more of a determination to influence an outcome.

No matter what, "we’re going to do a robust aid package for Israel," said Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat. "But it’s got to be consistent with humanitarian aid, and also efforts to reduce the suffering of Gazans who aren’t part of Hamas."


EU Envoys to Start Debating on Tuesday Ukraine Membership Talks

A man uses plastic to cover a broken window in his apartment following a Russian drone attack in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023. (AP)
A man uses plastic to cover a broken window in his apartment following a Russian drone attack in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023. (AP)
TT

EU Envoys to Start Debating on Tuesday Ukraine Membership Talks

A man uses plastic to cover a broken window in his apartment following a Russian drone attack in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023. (AP)
A man uses plastic to cover a broken window in his apartment following a Russian drone attack in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023. (AP)

Diplomatic envoys of the EU's 27 member countries meet on Tuesday to start debating a sensitive proposal to launch membership talks with Ukraine, officials and diplomats said.

The meeting marks the start of preparations among the 27 for a Dec. 14-15 summit of the bloc's leaders that is due to assess and decide on EU integration prospects for Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Bosnia and others.

Specifically, the Tuesday meeting will start debating a draft agreement of the leaders' summit. EU diplomats and officials said the first draft prepared for discussion was bound to change.

The initial draft reads: "The European Council decides to open accession negotiations with Ukraine and with Moldova."

For Georgia, it said the country would get EU candidate status "on the understanding" that Tbilisi implements outstanding conditions.

For Bosnia, the initial draft stated the bloc was "ready to open EU accession negotiations... once the necessary degree of compliance with the membership criteria is achieved."