Report: Syria Used US-Sanctioned Ships to Import Wheat from Crimea

Commercial vessels including vessels which are part of Black Sea grain deal wait to pass the Bosphorus strait off the shores of Yenikapi during a misty morning in Istanbul, Turkey, October 31, 2022. REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo
Commercial vessels including vessels which are part of Black Sea grain deal wait to pass the Bosphorus strait off the shores of Yenikapi during a misty morning in Istanbul, Turkey, October 31, 2022. REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo
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Report: Syria Used US-Sanctioned Ships to Import Wheat from Crimea

Commercial vessels including vessels which are part of Black Sea grain deal wait to pass the Bosphorus strait off the shores of Yenikapi during a misty morning in Istanbul, Turkey, October 31, 2022. REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo
Commercial vessels including vessels which are part of Black Sea grain deal wait to pass the Bosphorus strait off the shores of Yenikapi during a misty morning in Istanbul, Turkey, October 31, 2022. REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo

Using a low-profile fleet of ships under US sanctions, Syria has this year sharply increased wheat imports from the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea that Russia annexed from Ukraine, Reuters reported.

Wheat sent to Syria from the Black Sea port of Sevastopol in Crimea increased 17-fold this year to just over 500,000 tons, previously unreported Refinitiv shipping data shows, to make up nearly a third of the country's total imports of the grain.

With sanctions making it more complicated for Syria and Russia to trade using mainstream sea transport and marine insurance, the two countries are increasingly relying on their own ships to move the grain, including three Syrian vessels that are subject to sanctions imposed by Washington, the data shows.

Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. Russian forces invaded more of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Both Ukraine and the Russia-installed authorities agree that some grain has been exported from occupied Zaporizhzhia via Crimea. Ukraine though says grain was stolen by the occupiers, a charge Russia denies.

Ukraine says at least a part of the grain that passed through Sevastopol was taken from Ukrainian territories after Russia invaded. Ukraine's embassy in Beirut, which has been tracking shipments coming to Syria, estimates that 500,000 tons of what it calls plundered Ukrainian grain has arrived in Syria since the invasion, shipped from several ports.

The embassy said these calculations and Ukrainian authorities' allegation that grain was stolen was based on information from field and silo owners in occupied territories, satellite data of truck movements to ports and the tracking of ships.



Israeli Forces Advance in Southern Gaza, Tanks Active in Rafah

This picture taken in Khan Yunis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Bashar TALEB / AFP)
This picture taken in Khan Yunis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Bashar TALEB / AFP)
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Israeli Forces Advance in Southern Gaza, Tanks Active in Rafah

This picture taken in Khan Yunis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Bashar TALEB / AFP)
This picture taken in Khan Yunis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Bashar TALEB / AFP)

Israeli forces advanced deeper into some towns on the eastern side of Khan Younis in southern Gaza on Thursday, hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told US lawmakers he was actively engaged in bringing hostages home.
Fighting in recent days has centered around the eastern towns of Bani Suaila, Al-Zanna, and Al-Karara, where the army said on Wednesday it had found the bodies of five Israelis who were killed in Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel and held in Gaza since, Reuters said.
Hamas militants took more than 250 hostages in the early morning raid into southern Israel and killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies.
Israel retaliated by vowing to eradicate Hamas in Gaza in a nine-month war that has killed more than 39,000 Palestinians, Gaza health officials say.
Several were wounded in the eastern towns during Israeli tank and aerial shelling, while an airstrike east of Khan Younis killed four people, Palestinian health officials said.
Israeli bombardment intensified in several areas in Rafah, near the border with Egypt, as tanks operated north, west and in the town center, residents and medics said. Several Palestinians were also wounded in Israeli fire earlier on Thursday.
The Israeli military said forces operating in Khan Younis killed dozens of militants and dismantled around 50 military infrastructures, while it continued activities in Rafah, killing two militants.
In a speech to the US Congress, Netanyahu said his government was actively involved in seeking the release of remaining hostages and was confident they would succeed.
DISAPPOINTING SPEECH
Hamas described the comments by Netanyahu as "pure lies" accusing him of thwarting efforts to end the war.
Netanyahu's comments also disappointed many displaced Palestinians who had hoped for a clearer signal of an imminent end to the fighting, which has laid the overcrowded enclave to waste and created a humanitarian crisis.
"It was depressing, he didn't even mention ceasefire at all, not even once," said Tamer Al-Burai, a resident of Gaza City, now displaced in Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip.
"People awaited some surprise, a ceasefire announcement by Netanyahu as a gift to (US President Joe) Biden, but they slept with much disappointment, as Netanyahu said he was determined to pursue war," Burai told Reuters via a chat app.
Deir Al-Balah, where tanks haven't yet invaded, is currently overcrowded with hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, displaced from other areas of the enclave, home to 2.3 million people.
"Netanyahu spoke in a play, he spoke to clowns," said Burai.
Diplomatic efforts by Arab mediators, backed by the United States, to conclude a ceasefire deal, seemed to be on hold, as Israel was expected to send a delegation for more talks next week.
In northern Gaza, an Israeli air strike on a house in the Sheikh Radwan suburb killed four people, medics said, while seven Palestinians arrived at a hospital in central Gaza who had been detained by Israeli forces and released in an area close to the border.