Lebanon Blast Investigator Charges Former PM, Top Public Prosecutor

 A general view shows the site of the 2020 port blast, in Beirut, Lebanon January 23, 2023. (Reuters)
A general view shows the site of the 2020 port blast, in Beirut, Lebanon January 23, 2023. (Reuters)
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Lebanon Blast Investigator Charges Former PM, Top Public Prosecutor

 A general view shows the site of the 2020 port blast, in Beirut, Lebanon January 23, 2023. (Reuters)
A general view shows the site of the 2020 port blast, in Beirut, Lebanon January 23, 2023. (Reuters)

The judge probing the 2020 Beirut blast has charged Lebanon's top public prosecutor, the then-premier and other senior current and former officials in connection with the devastating explosion, judicial sources said and court summons show.

Judge Tarek Bitar unexpectedly resumed an inquiry on Monday after it was paralyzed for more than a year by political resistance and legal complaints filed by top officials he was seeking to question.

The explosion on Aug. 4, 2020 was caused by hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate that had been stored at the port in poor conditions since it was unloaded in 2013. So far, no senior official has been held to account.

Bitar has charged prime minister Hassan Diab and former ministers with homicide with probable intent, according to court summons seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

He also charged Prosecutor General Ghassan Oweidat, the head of Lebanon's domestic intelligence agency Major General Abbas Ibrahim, former army commander Jean Kahwaji and other current and former security and judicial officials, court sources said.

It was not immediately clear what they had been charged with, but one judicial source said Bitar had found Oweidat had not acted responsibly with regards to the ammonium nitrate.

Reuters could not immediately reach Diab or Oweidat for comment. Ibrahim declined to comment on reports he had been charged when contacted by Reuters on Monday. Kahwaji declined to comment.

All those previously charged by Bitar have denied wrongdoing.

Oweidat on Tuesday sent Bitar an official letter saying that Bitar's probe remained suspended and that no official decision had been taken on whether he could continue investigating, according to a copy of the correspondence seen by Reuters.

Pushback

Bitar's previous efforts to interrogate top officials over the explosion that killed 220 people and shattered parts of Beirut have been hindered by factions including the Iran-backed Hezbollah.

The group has campaigned against Bitar as he sought to question its allies and it also accused Washington of meddling in the probe. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah repeatedly called for him to be replaced in 2021.

The investigation was paralyzed in early 2022 by the retirement of judges from a court that must rule on several such complaints against Bitar before he can continue.

The court has been awaiting the appointment of new judges to resume its work, a step authorities have not taken.

Bitar met French judges visiting Beirut last week as part of a French investigation into the explosion, whose victims included two French nationals. He was unable to share documents with them at the time because the investigation was frozen.

Bitar resumed work on the basis of a legal interpretation challenging the reasons for its suspension, the judicial sources said.

Diab, an academic, became prime minister in January 2020 and resigned less than a week after the blast.

Bitar's predecessor swiftly charged him and several former officials with negligence over the chemicals, but that judge was removed in 2021 following political interference in the file.

Diab said in a statement in 2020 that he was confident his hands were clean and that he had dealt transparently with the file of the Beirut port explosion.

Bitar has scheduled questioning with 15 people throughout the month of February, according to judicial sources.

But legal experts and even relatives of victims expect him to encounter continued pushback.

Nizar Saghieh of watchdog NGO Legal Agenda said officials may try to dispute the legitimacy of Bitar's resumption, while the judiciary or security forces could refuse to carry out procedural steps for the charges to be served.



Sudan Authorities Block Cross-Border Aid to Stricken Darfur

A Sudanese girl who have fled from the war in Sudan with her family carries a box with some of her belongings after arriving at a Transit Centre for refugees in Renk, on February 13, 2024. (Photo by LUIS TATO / AFP)
A Sudanese girl who have fled from the war in Sudan with her family carries a box with some of her belongings after arriving at a Transit Centre for refugees in Renk, on February 13, 2024. (Photo by LUIS TATO / AFP)
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Sudan Authorities Block Cross-Border Aid to Stricken Darfur

A Sudanese girl who have fled from the war in Sudan with her family carries a box with some of her belongings after arriving at a Transit Centre for refugees in Renk, on February 13, 2024. (Photo by LUIS TATO / AFP)
A Sudanese girl who have fled from the war in Sudan with her family carries a box with some of her belongings after arriving at a Transit Centre for refugees in Renk, on February 13, 2024. (Photo by LUIS TATO / AFP)

Authorities loyal to the army in war-ravaged Sudan have blocked cross-border aid to the western Darfur region, a move decried by aid workers and the United States.

The vast Darfur region, bordering Chad, has been one of the hardest hit parts of Sudan since war began 10 months ago between the Sudanese Armed Forces and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

In their current battle against the army, which started last April, the RSF have taken over four out of the five Darfur state capitals.

More than 694,000 people have fled over the border to Chad, according to the International Organization for Migration, but many more remain trapped in Darfur and in need of assistance.

The United Nations has had to limit its work in Darfur to cross-border operations from Chad, but last week the UN's World Food Program (WFP) country director Eddie Rowe told reporters that "authorities have restricted the Chad cross-border operation".

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller on Friday said the US is deeply concerned by the army's "recent decision to prohibit cross border humanitarian assistance from Chad and reports that the SAF is obstructing assistance from reaching communities in areas controlled by the RSF".

Sudan's foreign ministry, loyal to the army, expressed "confusion and rejection" of the "false accusations" by Washington.

The ministry said the Sudan-Chad border "is the main crossing point for weapons and equipment" used to commit "atrocities" against Sudanese.

Miller expressed concern about RSF "looting homes, markets, and humanitarian assistance warehouses".

In Brussels, Rowe said his agency was "engaging with the authorities to ensure this critical lifeline" from Chad remains operational.

It is essential, an international aid worker told AFP on Sunday from Darfur, requesting anonymity so as not to jeopardize their mission.

"Children and babies are already dying from hunger and malnutrition. There will be an immense human impact... and quite possibly large-scale mortality rates," the aid worker said.

"The highest levels of diplomacy need to unblock this situation immediately because millions of lives hang in the balance," the aid worker said, calling it "a huge region already facing an imminent and immense food security crisis on top of a civil war, ethnic violence, and state service collapse".

The war has killed thousands, including up to 15,000 in the West Darfur city of El Geneina alone, according to UN experts.

Washington has accused both sides of war crimes and said the RSF also carried out ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.


France Reiterates Support for Morocco’s Western Sahara Plan

Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita (R) and his French counterpart Stephane Sejourne (L) hold a joint press conference after their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Rabat, Morocco, 26 February 2024. Sejourne is on an official visit to Morocco. EPA/JALAL MORCHIDI
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita (R) and his French counterpart Stephane Sejourne (L) hold a joint press conference after their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Rabat, Morocco, 26 February 2024. Sejourne is on an official visit to Morocco. EPA/JALAL MORCHIDI
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France Reiterates Support for Morocco’s Western Sahara Plan

Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita (R) and his French counterpart Stephane Sejourne (L) hold a joint press conference after their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Rabat, Morocco, 26 February 2024. Sejourne is on an official visit to Morocco. EPA/JALAL MORCHIDI
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita (R) and his French counterpart Stephane Sejourne (L) hold a joint press conference after their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Rabat, Morocco, 26 February 2024. Sejourne is on an official visit to Morocco. EPA/JALAL MORCHIDI

France’s Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Sejourne has renewed his country’s “clear” and “consistent” support for Morocco’s Autonomy Plan as a “serious and credible basis” to end the dispute over Western Sahara.

Sejourne made his remarks during a visit to Morocco.

In a joint press conference with his Moroccan counterpart, Nasser Bourita, Sejourne emphasized the need to “move forward” and boost the strong bilateral ties between the two countries at different levels.

On the Western Sahara dossier, Sejourne said that France knows the importance of the Sahara dispute as a primary cause in Morocco.

“This is an existential issue for Morocco. We know it,” Sejourne said, adding that he will personally ensure this.

He also pledged strong bilateral ties, announcing a desire to build a partnership for the next 30 years with Morocco.

Since late 2020, when the US formally acknowledged Rabat's sovereignty over the disputed territory contested by the Polisario Front, backed by Algeria, anticipation has brewed in the Kingdom for a parallel stance from Paris. Moroccans have been particularly upset by President Emmanuel Macron's desired rapprochement with Algeria.

Sejourne’s visit comes as the two countries continue political dialogue to mend bilateral ties that have been marred in the past few years.

Bourita also stressed the importance of a renewed partnership between Morocco and France and that these relations should be based on mutual respect, coordination, and win-win cooperation.

Sejourne proposed a partnership with Morocco focused over the next 30 years on renewable energies, training, and industrial development.

Ties have been tense between the two countries in the past years. In September 2021, France slashed the number of visas available to nationals from Maghreb countries, which sparked severe criticism in Morocco.

Moreover, France was discontent with an investigative report disclosing that the cell phones of French President Emmanuel Macron and members of the French government may have been among potential targets in 2019 of surveillance by Pegasus – a spyware made by the Israel-based NSO Group.

Rabat denied these accusations.


Iraq’s National Wisdom Movement Seeks Calm with Washington after Nujaba’s Threat 

Head of Iraq’s National Wisdom Movement Ammar al-Hakim meets with US Ambassador to Iraq Alina Romanowski on Monday. (National Wisdom Movement)
Head of Iraq’s National Wisdom Movement Ammar al-Hakim meets with US Ambassador to Iraq Alina Romanowski on Monday. (National Wisdom Movement)
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Iraq’s National Wisdom Movement Seeks Calm with Washington after Nujaba’s Threat 

Head of Iraq’s National Wisdom Movement Ammar al-Hakim meets with US Ambassador to Iraq Alina Romanowski on Monday. (National Wisdom Movement)
Head of Iraq’s National Wisdom Movement Ammar al-Hakim meets with US Ambassador to Iraq Alina Romanowski on Monday. (National Wisdom Movement)

Head of Iraq’s National Wisdom Movement and one of the most prominent members of the pro-Iran Coordination Framework, Ammar al-Hakim condemned on Monday “attempts to destabilize the country through resorting to the use of arms.”

He made his remarks during a meeting with US Ambassador to Iraq Alina Romanowski a day after Secretary-General of the Iran-aligned Nujaba movement Akram al-Kaabi warned Washington that the suspension of attacks against American troops was the “calm before the storm.”

The Nujaba had recently declared that it was suspending attacks against the US forces deployed in Iraq. In January, a US strike in Baghdad killed Mushtaq Taleb al-Saidi, a leading member of the Nujaba who was involved in planning and carrying out attacks against American personnel in Iraq and Syria.

In a statement after meeting Romanowski, Hakim underscored his support for the “security agencies that are carrying out their duties in pursuing the sides responsible for these rejected criminal acts.”

He said he welcomed the resumption of the second round of bilateral negotiations between Baghdad and the US to end the mission of the international coalition fighting the ISIS terrorist group.

He renewed his support to Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani's government in running the negotiations with the US-Iraq Higher Military Commission.

Hakim also condemned before the ambassador Israel's war on Gaza, urging the need to stop it as soon as possible and delivering humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people.

Kaabi had made light of the negotiations between Baghdad and Washington, saying that while the “Islamic Resistance” does not reject them, “we assert that the American occupier is a liar, treacherous and arrogant.”

He added that it would be “delusional” to believe that the US would “yield and withdraw from Iraq through negotiations.”

He stressed that the current calm “was only a temporary tactic aimed at redeployment and mobilization.”

Furthermore, he alleged that certain sides, which he did not name, “have provided the American forces with information about the resistance and their positions.”


Biden Says Israel Agrees to Stop Gaza Attacks for Ramadan as Hamas Mulls Draft Truce Proposal

FILE PHOTO: US President Joe Biden delivers remarks to US governors attending the National Governors Association winter meeting, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, US, February 23, 2024. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: US President Joe Biden delivers remarks to US governors attending the National Governors Association winter meeting, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, US, February 23, 2024. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz/File Photo
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Biden Says Israel Agrees to Stop Gaza Attacks for Ramadan as Hamas Mulls Draft Truce Proposal

FILE PHOTO: US President Joe Biden delivers remarks to US governors attending the National Governors Association winter meeting, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, US, February 23, 2024. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: US President Joe Biden delivers remarks to US governors attending the National Governors Association winter meeting, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, US, February 23, 2024. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz/File Photo

US President Joe Biden said Israel has agreed to halt military activities in Gaza for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, as Hamas studied a draft proposal for a truce which includes a pause in fighting and a prisoner-hostage exchange.
The draft proposal, which a senior source close to truce talks in Paris told Reuters would allow hospitals and bakeries in Gaza to be repaired and 500 aid trucks to enter the battered enclave every day, is the most serious attempt in weeks to end the conflict which erupted in October last year.
Ramadan is expected to begin on the evening of March 10th and end on the evening of April 9th.
"Ramadan is coming up, and there’s been an agreement by the Israelis that they would not engage in activities during Ramadan, as well, in order to give us time to get all the hostages out," Biden said during an appearance on NBC's "Late Night with Seth Meyers".
He also warned that Israel risked losing international support due to the high death toll among Palestinians, adding that Israel had committed to make it possible for Palestinians to evacuate from Rafah in Gaza's south before intensifying its campaign there to destroy Hamas.
Biden, whose remarks were recorded on Monday and broadcast on Tuesday, said there was an agreement in principle for a ceasefire between the two sides while hostages were released. He said he hoped to have a ceasefire in the conflict by the following Monday.
"There are too many innocent people that are being killed. And Israel has slowed down the attacks in Rafah," Biden said, adding that a temporary ceasefire would jumpstart a process for Palestinians to have their own state.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected a two-state solution.
Under the draft proposal, the exchange of Palestinian prisoners for Israeli hostages would be at a ratio of 10 to one, the senior source said.
The draft also states Hamas would free 40 Israeli hostages including women, children under 19, elderly over 50 and the sick, while Israeli would release around 400 Palestinian prisoners and will not re-arrest them, the source told Reuters.


US military Says it Destroys Houthi Weapons

A Royal Air Force Typhoon aircraft is prepared to conduct further strikes against Houthi targets, February 24, 2024. AS1 Eoin Kirwan-Taylor RAF/UK MOD/Handout via REUTERS
A Royal Air Force Typhoon aircraft is prepared to conduct further strikes against Houthi targets, February 24, 2024. AS1 Eoin Kirwan-Taylor RAF/UK MOD/Handout via REUTERS
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US military Says it Destroys Houthi Weapons

A Royal Air Force Typhoon aircraft is prepared to conduct further strikes against Houthi targets, February 24, 2024. AS1 Eoin Kirwan-Taylor RAF/UK MOD/Handout via REUTERS
A Royal Air Force Typhoon aircraft is prepared to conduct further strikes against Houthi targets, February 24, 2024. AS1 Eoin Kirwan-Taylor RAF/UK MOD/Handout via REUTERS

The US military said on Monday it had destroyed three unmanned surface vessels and two anti-ship cruise missiles that were prepared to launch towards the Red Sea from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.

The US military's Central Command also said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that it destroyed an aerial drone that was over the Red Sea. All the weapons "presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and to the US Navy ships in the region," it said.

Shipping risks have escalated due to repeated Houthi drone and missile strikes in the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab Strait since November in support of Palestinians in Gaza.

US and British forces have responded with several strikes on Houthi facilities but have so far failed to halt the attacks.


OPCW: No Grounds ISIS’ 2017 Attack in Syria Involved Chemicals

The Palestinian Yarmouk camp, south of Damascus, in December 2020 (EPA)
The Palestinian Yarmouk camp, south of Damascus, in December 2020 (EPA)
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OPCW: No Grounds ISIS’ 2017 Attack in Syria Involved Chemicals

The Palestinian Yarmouk camp, south of Damascus, in December 2020 (EPA)
The Palestinian Yarmouk camp, south of Damascus, in December 2020 (EPA)

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said on Monday there were “no reasonable grounds” to conclude that a 2017 “attack” in Syria blamed on ISIS contained chemical weapons.

OPCW said Damascus in November 2017 reported “use of toxic chemicals in an attack by the terrorist organization ISIS against another terrorist group called Aknaf Beit Almaqdis.”

The alleged attack took place at the sprawling Yarmouk district in Damascus in October that year.

It resulted in several cases of breathing difficulties “and loss of consciousness in the ranks of Aknaf terrorist group,” Damascus told the OPCW.

But the Hague-based body said after investigating, its Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) concluded that “there are no reasonable grounds to determine that toxic chemicals were used as a weapon in the reported incident.”

Set up in 2014, the FFM investigates the use of chemical weapons in Syria, but it cannot identify the perpetrators behind the attacks.

The OPCW's investigators based their findings on chemical sample analyses, interviews with witnesses, video and photo evidence and documents and correspondence with the Syrian government.

“The samples analysis results provided no indication that chemicals were used as a weapon,” the OPCW said in a statement.

“There was no detection of the presence of scheduled chemicals, their precursors and, or their degradation products, nor of riot control agents, chlorinated organic chemicals or compounds containing chemically reactive chlorine,” it said.

The FFM also tried to interview witnesses who were present “in areas of interest at the time of the reported incident.”

This was unsuccessful because several witnesses had died, or were missing, while others who had initially agreed to provide testimony “ultimately declined to provide their account of the events to the FFM,” the OPCW said.

The war in Syria has killed more than half a million people since it erupted in March 2011.

Syria agreed in 2013 to join the OPCW, shortly after an alleged chemical gas attack killed more than 1,400 people near Damascus.

But the global watchdog had since accused President Bashar al-Assad's regime of continuing to attack civilians with chemical weapons in the Middle East country's brutal civil war.

Damascus denies the charges.


US Names New Special Envoy to Sudan in Push to End War

Smoke rises above buildings in the vicinity of Khartoum Airport. (AFP)
Smoke rises above buildings in the vicinity of Khartoum Airport. (AFP)
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US Names New Special Envoy to Sudan in Push to End War

Smoke rises above buildings in the vicinity of Khartoum Airport. (AFP)
Smoke rises above buildings in the vicinity of Khartoum Airport. (AFP)

The United States appointed a new special envoy for Sudan on Monday, as Washington seeks to bring an end to a war that has wrecked parts of the country and killed tens of thousands.

Former diplomat and US member of Congress Tom Perriello will assume the special envoy role, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement provided to Reuters ahead of the announcement, as the US seeks to bring increased focus to the conflict after the failure of talks so far.

In a statement, Perriello said he will build on efforts of partners across Africa and the Middle East to bring an end to the war, a humanitarian crisis and atrocities.

"This appointment reflects the urgency and importance President Biden and Secretary Blinken have placed on ending this war, putting a stop to rampant atrocities against civilians, and preventing an already horrific humanitarian situation from becoming a catastrophic famine," Perriello said.

The US Ambassador to Sudan John Godfrey has left his role, Blinken said in the statement.

Daniel Rubinstein will serve as interim charge d'affaires as director of the Office of Sudan Affairs, Blinken said. He will be based in Ethiopia.

War broke out in Sudan last April over disputes about the powers of the army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) under an internationally-backed plan for a political transition towards civilian rule and elections.

The army and the RSF had shared power with civilians after the fall of former leader Omar al-Bashir in a popular uprising in 2019, before staging a coup two years later.

The fighting has wrecked parts of Sudan including the capital Khartoum, killed more than 13,000 people according to UN estimates, drawn warnings of famine, and created an internal displacement crisis.

The Rapid Support Forces are accused by the US of participating in an ethnic cleansing campaign in West Darfur, along with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The army, which has carried out a widespread airstrike campaign, is also accused of war crimes by the US.

Perriello previously served as special envoy for the Great Lakes region of Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and as a US representative from Virginia.

Rubinstein recently led the US delegation at talks on Sudan in the Saudi city of Jeddah. Neither side maintained commitments made in the talks.

The US military evacuated American government personnel from Khartoum in April last year and suspended operations at its embassy there after fighting between Sudan's rival commanders broke out.


Israel Targets Hezbollah's Leadership, Operatives

Rubble at the site of an Israeli air strike near Baalbek, the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, 26 February 2024. EPA/WAEL HAMZEH
Rubble at the site of an Israeli air strike near Baalbek, the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, 26 February 2024. EPA/WAEL HAMZEH
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Israel Targets Hezbollah's Leadership, Operatives

Rubble at the site of an Israeli air strike near Baalbek, the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, 26 February 2024. EPA/WAEL HAMZEH
Rubble at the site of an Israeli air strike near Baalbek, the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, 26 February 2024. EPA/WAEL HAMZEH

The Israeli military's Arabic spokesperson Avichay Adraee said on Monday that Israel launched raids on complexes used by Hezbollah’s air defense unit in the Bekaa, in response to the firing of surface-to-air missiles at a Zik drone.

Arab World Press quoted Adraee as saying on social media that the army “will continue to protect Israel and operate in Lebanese airspace against Hezbollah.”

Hezbollah responded by firing 60 rockets at an Israeli army headquarters in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The Israeli military also announced launching raids aimed at Hezbollah installations situated in southern Lebanon. This action comes amidst reports from Lebanese sources detailing the loss of four lives, with Hezbollah acknowledging the death of two of its associates.

Adraee asserted that Hezbollah entered the conflict against Israel in solidarity with Hamas in Gaza, jeopardizing Lebanon, its people, and regional stability.

He highlighted continuous attacks on Israeli territory since October 8, along with repeated attempts to target Israeli and allied aircraft within Lebanese airspace.

Adraee emphasized Israel's proactive measures to safeguard its borders, noting recent strikes against numerous "Hezbollah operatives" across southern Lebanon.

He elaborated that Israel's operations have specifically focused on hitting Hezbollah's strategic assets, including military compounds and terrorist infrastructure spread across southern Lebanon, notably in Aita al-Shaab and other locations.

Recent days have witnessed a series of precision strikes, directly targeting Hezbollah's leadership, operatives, and military installations.

Furthermore, Adraee emphasized the proactive stance of Israeli forces along the Lebanese border, characterizing their actions as “defensive measures” aimed at thwarting Hezbollah's attempts to inflict harm on Israeli military personnel, civilians, and communities.


Jordan’s King Abdullah Warns of Dangers of Israel’s Planned Rafah Assault

 Aid is air-dropped over Gaza in cooperation with France in this handout picture released on February 26, 2024.(Jordan Armed Forces/Handout via Reuters)
Aid is air-dropped over Gaza in cooperation with France in this handout picture released on February 26, 2024.(Jordan Armed Forces/Handout via Reuters)
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Jordan’s King Abdullah Warns of Dangers of Israel’s Planned Rafah Assault

 Aid is air-dropped over Gaza in cooperation with France in this handout picture released on February 26, 2024.(Jordan Armed Forces/Handout via Reuters)
Aid is air-dropped over Gaza in cooperation with France in this handout picture released on February 26, 2024.(Jordan Armed Forces/Handout via Reuters)

Jordan's King Abdullah warned on Monday of the dangers of a military operation planned by Israel in Rafah and reiterated his appeal for an immediate ceasefire to help protect civilians in Gaza and bring in aid, the royal palace said.

The king also said the only way to end the decades-old conflict was to find a "political horizon" for Palestinians that would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state on territory Israel occupied in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, including east Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this week the Israeli security cabinet would approve military plans for Rafah - including the evacuation of more than a million displaced Palestinian civilians who have been sheltering there, and whose fate worries world powers.

Almost 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war, Gaza medical officials say. The Hamas raid of Oct. 7 killed 1,200 people in Israel, which has also lost 241 soldiers in Gaza ground fighting that followed, according to official tallies.

The Jordanian army also arranged on Monday the biggest air drop operation so far to deliver aid to Gaza where the mostly displaced population of 2.3 million is facing crisis levels of hunger, an army statement said.

The operation deployed four C-130 planes including one belonging to the French air force, army spokesperson Mustafa Hiyari said.

Aid was dropped to 11 sites along the Gaza coast from its northern edge to the south for civilians to collect, Hiyari told Reuters. Previous air drops that parachuted in medicines and humanitarian provisions were sent to hospitals the Jordanian army runs in Gaza.


Four Workers Dead In Egypt Boat Sinking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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