Group Says Libyan Coast Guard Fired Shots over Rescue Ship

File photo: Members of the German charity Sea-Watch 3 rescue ship team help migrants on a wooden boat during a rescue operation in the Mediterranean Sea, February 26, 2021. Selene Magnolia/Sea-Watch/Handout via REUTERS
File photo: Members of the German charity Sea-Watch 3 rescue ship team help migrants on a wooden boat during a rescue operation in the Mediterranean Sea, February 26, 2021. Selene Magnolia/Sea-Watch/Handout via REUTERS
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Group Says Libyan Coast Guard Fired Shots over Rescue Ship

File photo: Members of the German charity Sea-Watch 3 rescue ship team help migrants on a wooden boat during a rescue operation in the Mediterranean Sea, February 26, 2021. Selene Magnolia/Sea-Watch/Handout via REUTERS
File photo: Members of the German charity Sea-Watch 3 rescue ship team help migrants on a wooden boat during a rescue operation in the Mediterranean Sea, February 26, 2021. Selene Magnolia/Sea-Watch/Handout via REUTERS

Libya’s coast guard fired warning shots over a humanitarian vessel as it attempted to rescue a rubber boat carrying migrants off Libya's coast, a sea rescue group said. The coast guard went on to return some 80 Europe-bound migrants to Libyan soil.

The incident Saturday in international waters was the latest reckless sea interception of migrants by the Libyan coast guard, which is trained and financed by the European Union to stem the influx of migrants to Europe, said the SOS Mediterranee group, whose vessel was warned off by the coast guard.

A spokesman for the coast guard didn’t respond to a request for comment, The Associated Press said.

The Ocean Viking, a rescue ship chartered and run by the non-profit SOS Mediterranee, was responding to a distress call to help the rubber boat carrying migrants in the Mediterranean Sea when a Libyan coast guard vessel arrived at the scene, the group said.

The coast guard vessel “dangerously” approached the rescue ship, threatening its crew “with guns and firing gunshots in the air,” the SOS Mediterranee said in a statement.

The coast guard was caught on camera threatening the vessel and firing a weapon into the air. In the footage, the coast guard vessel is seen traveling at a high rate of speed before maneuvering, apparently to prevent the Ocean Viking from reaching the migrant boat. At one point, gunshots are heard.

“You can’t shoot at us. You can’t shoot at us. We’re leaving the waters now,” a person on the Ocean Viking is head saying.

Under threats, the Ocean Viking sailed away while the Libyan coast guard intercepted the boat and “forcibly” took the migrants back to war-wrecked Libya, it said.

Seabird 2, a civil surveillance plane owned by the German non-governmental organization Sea-Watch, reported seeing migrants who had fallen overboard from the rubber boat before the coast guard recovered them.

Saturday’s incident was the latest report from European NGOs operating in the Mediterranean Sea of threats or violent behavior by the Libyan coast guard.

The coast guard attempted in January to prevent an SOS Mediterranee fast boat from returning to the Ocean Viking after a rescue operation, according to the group. The boat managed to return the rescued migrants to the mother vessel safely, it said.

In October, the Sea-Watch accused the Libyan coast guard of threatening to shoot down their monitoring plane, Seabird.

The Libyan coast guard is trained and financed by the European Union, part of efforts to stem the flow of migrants from the North African country towards Italian shores.

Libya has in recent years emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants seeking a better quality of life in Europe. The oil-rich country plunged into chaos following a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime autocrat Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

Human traffickers have benefited from the chaos in Libya, smuggling in migrants across the country’s lengthy borders with six nations. The migrants are then packed into ill-equipped rubber boats and other vessels and set off on risky sea voyages.

So far this year, some 20,000 migrants have arrived in Italy, far exceeding the 6,000 who came in the same period in each of the preceding years, according to Interior Ministry figures.

Over the weekend alone, an estimated 3,000 migrants, many leaving on small boats from Tunisia's coastal city of Sfax, were rescued in the Mediterranean and were heading toward Italian ports to disembark, according to humanitarian rescue groups and news reports.



Egypt, Türkiye Forge Closer Ties After Ending Rift

The Egyptian president shakes hands with his Turkish counterpart during his visit to Cairo last February (AFP)
The Egyptian president shakes hands with his Turkish counterpart during his visit to Cairo last February (AFP)
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Egypt, Türkiye Forge Closer Ties After Ending Rift

The Egyptian president shakes hands with his Turkish counterpart during his visit to Cairo last February (AFP)
The Egyptian president shakes hands with his Turkish counterpart during his visit to Cairo last February (AFP)

Cairo and Ankara are swiftly repairing their relationship after years of tension. Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry is expected to visit Türkiye this week, setting the stage for a possible visit by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to Ankara, as previously announced.

According to Turkish diplomatic sources, Shoukry will discuss Middle East developments and Gaza with his Turkish counterpart Hakan Fidan. The focus will be on ceasefire negotiations in Gaza.

While Egypt hasn’t confirmed the visit officially, reports suggest Shoukry will meet Fidan in Türkiye by the week’s end. This marks Shoukry’s second visit since relations normalized in 2023.

Experts see Shoukry’s visit as preparation for Sisi’s potential visit to Türkiye, aiming to discuss cooperation and set the agenda for an Egyptian-Turkish summit.

This sentiment was echoed by Karam Said, an expert on Turkish affairs at the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

“A part of Shoukry’s visit will focus on preparing for the anticipated visit by Sisi and agreeing on the agenda for the Egyptian-Turkish summit and clarifying the issues to be discussed between the two countries,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Said highlighted that Shoukry’s upcoming visit to Türkiye is crucial given current tensions in bilateral relations and regional conflicts.

It aligns with both countries’ efforts to ease tensions, prevent escalation, and mitigate the fallout from the Iranian-Israeli conflict.

Last year’s groundbreaking meeting between Sisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Cairo signaled a shift toward normalization after over a decade of strained relations.

Egypt and Türkiye elevated diplomatic ties, with both presidents meeting twice and officials from both countries holding multiple discussions.

Enhancing relations benefits both countries and could contribute to resolving regional conflicts. The timing of Shoukry’s visit is crucial, given regional tensions, especially concerning Gaza and the Iranian-Israeli escalation.

Egypt and Türkiye’s warming relations could pave the way for broader regional cooperation, potentially easing conflicts and fostering dialogue in the region.


Iran-Israel Tension Delays Decision on US Troop Withdrawal from Iraq

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani at the Pentagon in Arlington, VA, US, April 15, 2024. REUTERS/REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani at the Pentagon in Arlington, VA, US, April 15, 2024. REUTERS/REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
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Iran-Israel Tension Delays Decision on US Troop Withdrawal from Iraq

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani at the Pentagon in Arlington, VA, US, April 15, 2024. REUTERS/REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani at the Pentagon in Arlington, VA, US, April 15, 2024. REUTERS/REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani struck military deals and security agreements in meetings at the White House and with US officials, welcomed by Iraqi circles.

Sudani and US President Joe Biden had conflicting viewpoints on the Gaza conflict. The Iraqi PM stressed no escalation and voiced Iraq’s wish to end the US-led international coalition’s mission and move to a bilateral relationship, covering various fields under the “Strategic Framework Agreement,” according to Asharq Al-Awsat sources.

Biden and Sudani agreed, however, to work together on politics, economics, and security.

They aim for Iraq to produce its own energy by 2030, improve electricity reliability, and connect its power grid with neighboring countries, including Jordan and Gulf states.

A key focus of their talks was preventing ISIS from regrouping after setbacks inflicted by the international coalition over the past decade.

Biden and Sudani pledged to keep discussing security threats and strengthening Iraqi forces, with an eye toward ending the coalition’s mission and transitioning to a lasting bilateral security partnership as per Iraqi law and agreements between Baghdad and Washington.

Tensions rise in the Middle East amid worries about potential Israeli actions against Iran, while discussions continue on the withdrawal of US and coalition forces from Iraq.

The US insists on ongoing talks without setting a clear exit date for the troops.

Conversations also covered financial reforms, combating money laundering and corruption, and boosting Iraq’s ties to the global economy to attract foreign investment.

US officials vowed to work with Baghdad against illicit finance and sanctioned activities.

Biden praised the Iraqi Prime Minister’s efforts in reaching agreements with the Kurdistan Regional Government and ensuring salaries for civil servants in the region.

Both sides affirmed Kurdistan’s integral role in Iraq, with Biden backing free and fair elections there.

Farhad Alaa Al-Din, advisor to the Iraqi Prime Minister, stated the visit is on track with productive meetings.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that after key political discussions, Iraqi officials will meet with investors, companies, and communities in Houston and Michigan, engaging with media and intellectuals.


CENTCOM Forces Successfully Engage 2 Houthi UAVs

Armed Houthi fighters stand guard at the entrance to a mosque during Eid al-Fitr prayers in Sanaa, Yemen, 10 April 2024. EPA/YAHYA ARHAB
Armed Houthi fighters stand guard at the entrance to a mosque during Eid al-Fitr prayers in Sanaa, Yemen, 10 April 2024. EPA/YAHYA ARHAB
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CENTCOM Forces Successfully Engage 2 Houthi UAVs

Armed Houthi fighters stand guard at the entrance to a mosque during Eid al-Fitr prayers in Sanaa, Yemen, 10 April 2024. EPA/YAHYA ARHAB
Armed Houthi fighters stand guard at the entrance to a mosque during Eid al-Fitr prayers in Sanaa, Yemen, 10 April 2024. EPA/YAHYA ARHAB

The US Central Command (CENTCOM) said on Wednesday its forces successfully engaged two unmanned aerial (UAV) vehicles in areas controlled by the Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen on April 16.

"There were no injuries or damage reported by US, coalition, or commercial ships," CENTCOM said in a statement.

A Houthi spokesman said Sunday that the militias had been in direct confrontation with Israel since Oct. 7, by attacking the southern Israeli port of Eilat with missiles and drones and by preventing Israeli ships from sailing through the Red Sea.


UN Appeals for $2.8 Billion to Help 3 Million Palestinians

FILE - Palestinians line up for a meal in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair, File)
FILE - Palestinians line up for a meal in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair, File)
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UN Appeals for $2.8 Billion to Help 3 Million Palestinians

FILE - Palestinians line up for a meal in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair, File)
FILE - Palestinians line up for a meal in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair, File)

The United Nations appealed for $2.8 billion on Tuesday to provide desperately needed aid to 3 million Palestinians, stressing that tackling looming famine in war-torn Gaza requires not only food but sanitation, water and health facilities.

Andrea De Domenico, the head of the UN humanitarian office for Gaza and the West Bank, told reporters that “massive operations” are required to restore those services and meet minimum standards — and this can’t be done during military operations.

He pointed to the destruction of hospitals, water and sanitation facilities, homes, roads and schools, adding that “there is not a single university that is standing in Gaza.”

According to The Associated Press, De Domenico said Israel's recently-ended second major military operation at Shifa Hospital, Gaza's largest medical facility, was so destructive the facility has been forced to shut down. As an example, he questioned what the military objective was in shooting an MRI scanner that examines parts of the body and can detect cancers.

He said his team has been dealing with “a scene of terror” at the hospital, with UN and Palestinian colleagues helping people try to recognize family members from shoes or clothes on “the remnants of corpses.”

The Israeli offensive in Gaza aimed at destroying Hamas has caused widespread devastation and killed over 33,800 people, according to local health officials.

De Domenico said there are signs of Israel’s “good intention” to get more humanitarian assistance into Gaza, citing the opening of a crossing to the north, which faces the most serious threat of famine, and the opening of bakeries there.

But the UN keeps pushing Israel to do more, he said.

De Domenico pointed to Israeli denials and delays on UN requests for aid convoys to enter Gaza.

He said 41% of UN requests that required going through Israeli checkpoints were denied during the week from April 6-12, and last week a convoy from the UN children’s agency UNICEF and the UN World Food Program was caught in crossfire in an area that was supposed to be safe.

De Domenico said convoys often spend hours at checkpoints and are only cleared in the afternoon, too late to make deliveries and return safely in daylight hours. He said the Israelis know this is how the UN operates, and delays allow them to say “we’re not blindly denying you” while controlling what happens.

“We continue to engage with them and our objective is really to solve the issue and deliver aid,” he said.


Bathily Resigns as UN Envoy, Says Libya Is Arena for Fierce Rivalry Among Regional, Int'l Actors

UN envoy for Libya Abdoulaye Bathily. (AFP)
UN envoy for Libya Abdoulaye Bathily. (AFP)
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Bathily Resigns as UN Envoy, Says Libya Is Arena for Fierce Rivalry Among Regional, Int'l Actors

UN envoy for Libya Abdoulaye Bathily. (AFP)
UN envoy for Libya Abdoulaye Bathily. (AFP)

United Nations envoy for Libya Abdoulaye Bathily tendered his resignation on Tuesday, accusing the country's feuding parties of revealing an “intentional defiance” to engage in UN-led efforts to help resolve their political crisis and a tenacity to perpetually delay elections.

The North African country has become the playground for “fierce rivalry” among regional and international actors, Bathily warned during a briefing at the UN Security Council.

He said the renewed scramble for Libya, its position and immense resources among internal and external players is rendering a solution ever elusive.

Bathily said his invitation to the five key Libyan stakeholders for a dialogue to resolve all contested issues pertaining to the electoral laws and the formation of a unified government were met with “stubborn resistance, unreasonable expectations, and indifference to the interests of the Libyan people.”

Since the end of 2022, the UN-led efforts to help resolve Libya’s political crisis through elections faced national as well as regional pushbacks, revealing an “intentional defiance to engage in earnest and a tenacity to perpetually delay elections,” he noted.

“Therefore, amidst this environment of entrenched positions and regional and global complexities, the challenges facing UN-led efforts in Libya have become increasingly pronounced,” he continued.

Also, he added, “despite continuous and extensive engagement with the main institutional actors, their persistent positions are significantly impeding efforts to advance the political process.”

The envoy then explained that head of the High Council of State (HCS) Mohamed Takala and head of the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU) Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah nominated their representatives for the proposed dialogue, but both put pre-conditions which require the reopening of the electoral laws obtained by consensus after eight months of negotiations by the 6+6 Interparliamentary Committee and published in the Official Gazette by Speaker of the House of Representatives Aguila Saleh.

Takala and Dbeibah also require the adoption of a new constitution as a pre-requisite for the electoral process, Bathily told the Security Council.

He said that “Saleh also continues to set the formation of a new government by the HoR as his priority,” arguing that the HoR “is the main legislative body that enjoys utmost legitimacy.”

Meanwhile, commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) General Khalifa Haftar conditions his participation either to the invitation of the HoR-backed government led by Ossama Hammad, or to the disinvitation of Dbeibah, or in other terms the exclusion of both governments.

Bathily said that while the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and UN agencies, funds and programs engage the HoR-backed government especially on issues pertaining to humanitarian assistance and to the reconstruction on Derna, the administration is not, on its own, one of the key institutions whose buy-in is needed for a political settlement to enable elections.

He noted that “the rivalry among the five major Libyan players is at the heart of the problem”, adding that the dialogue proposal is a balanced way to an inclusive solution.

“These complexities were exacerbated by an apparent agreement between President of the Presidential Council Mohamed al-Menfi, Saleh, and Takala, according to a joint statement following a trilateral meeting on March 10 in Cairo, with which UNSMIL was not associated,” the envoy said.

Bathily stressed that his subsequent discussions with the leaders who participated in the Cairo meeting revealed diverging interpretations of and lack of details on its outcome.

Therefore, preconditions put forward by Libyan leaders contradict their proclaimed intention to find a Libyan-led and Libyan-owned solution to the conflict, according to the UN envoy. “So far, they have not demonstrated their good will.”

Also, he said concerns regarding the weakening of the international consensus on Libya are growing within the general population, as their country has become the playground for “fierce rivalry among regional and international actors motivated by geopolitical, political and economic interests as well as competition extending beyond Libya and related to its neighborhood.”

“The renewed scramble for Libya, its position and immense resources among internal and external players is rendering a solution ever elusive,” he lamented.

At the economic level, Bathily said the situation in Libya is becoming severely strained, amid warnings from the Central Bank of Libya of an impending liquidity crisis.

He explained that the temporary surcharge on official foreign currency exchange, combined with the declining value of the Libyan dinar in the domestic parallel market and restricted access to foreign currencies, has noticeably fueled public anger.

Bathily, therefore, urged Libyan authorities to promptly agree on a national budget and decisively address significant deficiencies in transparent, equitable, and accountable management of state resources for the benefit of all Libyans, including those in the marginalized areas of the country.

He then warned that any escalation of tensions in Libya would exacerbate instability not only in Chad, Niger and Sudan, but also across the wider region of the Sahel.


Israeli Tanks Push Back into Northern Gaza, Warplanes Hit Rafah, Say Residents

A man mourns over the bodies of relatives who were killed the previous night during Israeli bombardment, at Al-Najjar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 16, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
A man mourns over the bodies of relatives who were killed the previous night during Israeli bombardment, at Al-Najjar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 16, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
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Israeli Tanks Push Back into Northern Gaza, Warplanes Hit Rafah, Say Residents

A man mourns over the bodies of relatives who were killed the previous night during Israeli bombardment, at Al-Najjar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 16, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
A man mourns over the bodies of relatives who were killed the previous night during Israeli bombardment, at Al-Najjar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 16, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)

Israeli tanks pushed back into parts of the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday which they had left weeks ago, while warplanes conducted air strikes on Rafah, the Palestinians' last refuge in the south of the territory, killing and wounding several people, medics and residents said.

Residents reported an internet outage in the areas of Beit Hanoun and Jabalia in northern Gaza. Tanks advanced into Beit Hanoun and surrounded some schools where displaced families have taken refuge, said the residents and media outlets of the armed Palestinian group Hamas.

"Occupation soldiers ordered all families inside the schools and the nearby houses where the tanks had advanced to evacuate. The soldiers detained many men," one resident of northern Gaza told Reuters via a chat app.

Beit Hanoun, home to 60,000 people, was one of the first areas targeted by Israel's ground offensive in Gaza last October. Heavy bombardment turned most of Beit Hanoun, once known as "the basket of fruit" because of its orchards, into a ghost town comprising piles of rubble.

Many families who had returned to Beit Hanoun and Jabalia in recent weeks after Israeli forces withdrew, began moving out again on Tuesday because of the new raid, some residents said.

Palestinian health officials said an Israeli strike had killed four people and wounded several others in Rafah, where over half of Gaza's 2.3 million people are sheltering and bracing for a planned Israeli ground offensive into the city, which borders Egypt.

Later on Tuesday, Palestinian health officials and Hamas media said an Israeli air strike had killed 11 Palestinians, including children, in the Al-Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

"My brothers were sitting by the door, my brother was injured, and his cousin too, and I lost my son, I do not have a house, nor a husband, nor anything anymore," said Wafaa Issa al-Nouri, whose son Mohammad and husband were killed in the strike.

"He was playing by the door, we didn't do anything, I swear we didn't do anything," she said.

Gunmen targeted

After six months of fighting, there is still no sign of any breakthrough in US-backed talks led by Qatar and Egypt to clinch a ceasefire deal in Gaza, as Israel and Hamas stick to their mutually irreconcilable conditions.

The Israeli military said its forces continued to operate in the central Gaza Strip and that they had killed several gunmen who attempted to attack them.

"Furthermore, over the past day, IDF fighter jets and aircraft destroyed a missile launcher along with dozens of terrorist infrastructure, terror tunnels, and military compounds where armed Hamas terrorists were located," it added.

In Al-Nusseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, residents said Israeli planes had bombed and destroyed four multi-storey residential buildings on Tuesday.

Israel is still imposing "unlawful" restrictions on humanitarian relief for Gaza, the UN human rights office said on Tuesday, despite assertions from Israel and others that barriers have eased.

The amount of aid now entering Gaza is disputed, with Israel and Washington saying aid flows have risen in recent days but UN agencies say it is still far below bare minimum levels.

Israel is under international pressure to allow more aid into Gaza, especially northern areas where famine is expected by May, according to the United Nations.

Israel's military said it had facilitated the entry of 126 trucks into northern Gaza late on Monday from the south.

It also said it was working in collaboration with the World Food Program (WFP) to facilitate the opening of two more bakeries in northern Gaza after the first began operations on Monday with WFP help.

The Palestinian health ministry said more than 33,000 Palestinians have so far been killed by Israeli fire since Oct. 7, including 46 in the past 24 hours.

Israel launched its offensive in Gaza after fighters of the Hamas group that has been running the territory attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 253 hostages according to Israeli tallies.


Israeli Strikes in Lebanon Kill 3 Including Hezbollah Commander, Sources Say

 Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike on the southern Lebanese village of Majdel Zoun, on April 15, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (AFP)
Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike on the southern Lebanese village of Majdel Zoun, on April 15, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (AFP)
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Israeli Strikes in Lebanon Kill 3 Including Hezbollah Commander, Sources Say

 Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike on the southern Lebanese village of Majdel Zoun, on April 15, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (AFP)
Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike on the southern Lebanese village of Majdel Zoun, on April 15, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (AFP)

Israeli strikes in southern Lebanon on Tuesday killed three people including a Hezbollah field commander, Lebanese security sources said, an uptick in violence after at least a week of relative calm in more than half a year of hostilities.

The Israeli military said Ismail Baz, killed in a strike on a car near the southern town of Ain Ebel, was the commander of Hezbollah's coastal sector and was involved in planning rocket and anti-tank missile attacks on Israel.

Hezbollah issued a statement mourning Baz's death but did not elaborate on his role in the organization.

Separate Israeli strikes on two vehicles near the southern town of Chehabiyeh killed at least two Hezbollah members, a security source and a civil defense official said.

Hezbollah and Israel have traded fire in parallel to the Gaza war in the most serious hostilities since they fought a major war in 2006.

The fighting has claimed the lives of at least 370 Lebanese, including more than 240 Hezbollah fighters and 68 civilians, according to a Reuters toll and has fueled concern about the potential for further escalation between regional enemies.

Eighteen Israelis, including soldiers and civilians, have been killed.

Those concerns have mounted following Iran's unprecedented attack on Israel with hundreds of explosive drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles launched on Saturday night to which Israeli officials have vowed to respond.

Iran called the barrage retaliation for an Israeli strike that flattened a building in its embassy compound in Damascus on April 1 and killed two of its generals and several other officers.


Putin Tells the Middle East to Pull Back from a Catastrophic Clash

07 December 2023, Russia, Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands meets Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (R) ahead of their meeting at Kremlin. Kremlin/dpa
07 December 2023, Russia, Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands meets Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (R) ahead of their meeting at Kremlin. Kremlin/dpa
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Putin Tells the Middle East to Pull Back from a Catastrophic Clash

07 December 2023, Russia, Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands meets Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (R) ahead of their meeting at Kremlin. Kremlin/dpa
07 December 2023, Russia, Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands meets Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (R) ahead of their meeting at Kremlin. Kremlin/dpa

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday urged all sides in the Middle East to refrain from action that would trigger a new confrontation which he warned would be fraught with catastrophic consequences for the region, the Kremlin said.

Putin, who has forged much closer ties with Tehran since sending troops into Ukraine in 2022, spoke to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi by phone about what the Kremlin called "retaliatory measures taken by Iran."

Iran launched drones and missiles at Israel late on Saturday in retaliation for an Israeli strike on its Damascus consulate on April 1 that killed seven officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, including two senior commanders.

Putin, in his first publicly aired comments on Iran's attack, said the root cause of the current instability in the Middle East was the unresolved conflict between Palestinians and Israel.

"Vladimir Putin expressed hope that all sides would show reasonable restraint and prevent a new round of confrontation fraught with catastrophic consequences for the entire region," the Kremlin said.

"Ebrahim Raisi noted that Iran's actions were forced and limited in nature," the Kremlin said. "At the same time, he stressed Tehran's disinterest in further escalation of tensions."

Tehran gave a slightly different readout of the call, with state media quoting Raisi as declaring that Iran would respond more severely, extensively, and painfully than ever to any action against Iran's interests.

Iranian state media quoted Putin as characterizing Tehran's response to Israel as the best way to punish the aggressor and a manifestation of the wisdom of Iran's leaders.

Russia has repeatedly scolded the West for ignoring the need for an independent Palestinian state within 1967 borders.

"Both sides stated that the root cause of the current events in the Middle East is the unresolved Palestinian-Israeli conflict," the Kremlin said of the call with Raisi.

"In this regard, the principled approaches of Russia and Iran in favor of an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, easing the difficult humanitarian situation, and creating conditions for a political and diplomatic settlement of the crisis were confirmed."

Putin, who in 2022 visited Khamenei, congratulated Raisi and all Muslims on the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Top US generals say the growing partnerships between Russia, China, Iran and North Korea pose one of the most dangerous challenges to the United States in the past four decades.

Iran has provided Russia with a large number of powerful surface-to-surface ballistic missiles and drones that Moscow has used in Ukraine.


Egypt's Shoukry to visit Türkiye to Discuss Middle East Tensions

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry at a press conference in Berlin in January 2016. (AFP)
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry at a press conference in Berlin in January 2016. (AFP)
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Egypt's Shoukry to visit Türkiye to Discuss Middle East Tensions

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry at a press conference in Berlin in January 2016. (AFP)
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry at a press conference in Berlin in January 2016. (AFP)

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry is expected to discuss developments in the Middle East and the situation in Gaza with his Turkish counterpart during a visit to Türkiye at the weekend, a Turkish diplomatic source said on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

Shoukry and Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan will also evaluate the latest developments in negotiations for a ceasefire in Gaza, the source said.


Iraqi PM Calls for Restraint in Middle East during Washington Visit

US President Joe Biden meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani at the White House in Washington, US, April 15, 2024. Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
US President Joe Biden meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani at the White House in Washington, US, April 15, 2024. Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
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Iraqi PM Calls for Restraint in Middle East during Washington Visit

US President Joe Biden meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani at the White House in Washington, US, April 15, 2024. Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
US President Joe Biden meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani at the White House in Washington, US, April 15, 2024. Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani called for restraint in the Middle East during talks in Washington as tensions soar between Iran and Israel after Tehran's weekend strikes.

"We encourage all the efforts of stopping the expansion of the area of conflict, especially the latest development," Sudani said at the White House at the start of a meeting with President Joe Biden.

The meetings come as US ally Israel weighs its response to Iran's missile and drone attack, with the United States and Europe urging restraint, Reuters reported.

Sudani is leading a delegation that met officials across Washington on Monday, including Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

"In the spirit of partnership our views may be divergent about what’s happening in the region," Sudani said through a translator as he sat next to Biden in the Oval Office.

"But we agree certainly about the international law, the international humanitarian law and the responsibility to protect and the law of war, and we reject any repression against the civilians, especially women and children, and we encourage the commitment about respecting international norms and diplomatic missions."

Biden said Washington was committed to Israel's security and to bringing an end to fighting in Gaza.

"We're committed to a ceasefire that will bring the hostages home and preventing conflict from spreading beyond what it already has," Biden said.

"The partnership between the United States and Iraq is critical," he added, noting efforts against ISIS and the two nations' critical strategic agreement.

Deputy Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Tamim, who co-chaired a meeting of the US-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, said Iraq was concerned about its region being "dragged into a wider war that will threaten international security and safety."

"And therefore we call on all parties for self-restraint and respect the rules of diplomatic works and also international laws," he said.

US and other Western officials have welcomed economic reform plans put forward by Sudani, but concerns remain over the influence of Iran-backed groups. Armed groups have engaged in tit-for-tat attacks on US forces linked to Israel's war in Gaza.

The United States has 2,500 troops in Iraq, advising and assisting local forces to prevent a resurgence of ISIS which in 2014 seized large parts of Iraq and Syria before being defeated.

At the Pentagon, Austin said both countries agree "on the need to transition to an enduring bilateral security relationship" and said military leaders were conducting assessments to inform talks on a potential reduction in US troop numbers in Iraq.

Separate from talks on ending the US-led military coalition in the country is the Higher Coordinating Committee, which is tasked with discussing other aspects of the relationship, including economic ties.

Blinken, who reiterated that Washington does not want the regional conflict to swell, said the meetings would focus on issues including energy security, democracy, the rule of law, climate and water, and noted US private sector interest, especially in Iraq's energy sector.

"Through these efforts we look forward to helping advance the prime minister's affirmative agenda, and seeing Iraq succeed," Blinken said.