Syria’s Foreign Minister Arrives in Cairo

Syria's Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad (SANA)
Syria's Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad (SANA)
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Syria’s Foreign Minister Arrives in Cairo

Syria's Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad (SANA)
Syria's Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad (SANA)

Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Al-Mikdad arrived at the head of a delegation in Cairo on Saturday. This is his first visit to Egypt since he was named as Syria's FM.

Senior officials from the Protocol Department and staff from the Syrian embassy in Egypt met Al-Mikdad upon his arrival to the VIP lounge at Cairo Airport.

Earlier, SANA reported that Mikdad will visit Egypt upon the invitation of Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry, saying discussions will focus on "strengthening bilateral relations between the two brotherly countries, as well as the latest regional developments.”

Shoukry visited Damascus on February 27, and conveyed to President Bashar al-Assad a message from President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, in which he affirmed Egypt’s solidarity with Syria and his pride in the historical relations between the two countries, highlighting Cairo's keenness to boost those ties.



Israel Reported to Boycott Ceasefire Talks in Cairo

Palestinians search for their belongings amid the rubble of houses destroyed by Israeli bombardment in Gaza City on March 3, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas movement. (AFP)
Palestinians search for their belongings amid the rubble of houses destroyed by Israeli bombardment in Gaza City on March 3, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas movement. (AFP)
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Israel Reported to Boycott Ceasefire Talks in Cairo

Palestinians search for their belongings amid the rubble of houses destroyed by Israeli bombardment in Gaza City on March 3, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas movement. (AFP)
Palestinians search for their belongings amid the rubble of houses destroyed by Israeli bombardment in Gaza City on March 3, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas movement. (AFP)

Israel boycotted Gaza ceasefire talks in Cairo on Sunday after Hamas rejected its demand for a complete list naming hostages that are still alive, an Israeli newspaper reported.

A Hamas delegation arrived in Cairo for the talks, billed as a possible final hurdle before an agreement that would halt the fighting for six weeks. But by early evening there was no sign of the Israelis.

"There is no Israeli delegation in Cairo," Ynet, the online version of Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, quoted unidentified Israeli officials as saying. "Hamas refuses to provide clear answers and therefore there is no reason to dispatch the Israeli delegation."

Washington has insisted the ceasefire deal is close and should be in place in time to halt fighting by the start of Ramadan, a week away. But the warring sides have given little sign in public of backing away from previous demands.

After the Hamas delegation arrived, a Palestinian official told Reuters the deal was "not yet there". From the Israeli side, there was no official comment.

One source briefed on the talks had said on Saturday that Israel could stay away from Cairo unless Hamas first presented its full list of hostages who are still alive. A Palestinian source told Reuters Hamas had so far rejected that demand.

In past negotiations Hamas has sought to avoid discussing the wellbeing of individual hostages until after terms for their release are set.

A US official told reporters on Saturday: "The path to a ceasefire right now literally at this hour is straightforward. And there's a deal on the table. There's a framework deal."

Israel had agreed to the framework and it was now up to Hamas to respond, the U.S. official said.

An agreement would bring the first extended truce of the war, which has raged for five months so far with just a week-long pause in November. Dozens of hostages held by the militants would be freed in return for hundreds of Palestinian detainees.

Aid would be ramped up for Gazans pushed to the verge of famine. Fighting would cease in time to head off a massive planned Israeli assault on Rafah, where more than half of Gaza's 2.3 million people are penned in against the enclave's southern border fence abutting Egypt. Israeli forces would pull back from some areas and let Gazans return to abandoned homes.

But the proposal appears to stop short of fulfilling the main Hamas demand for a permanent end to the war, while also leaving unresolved the fate of more than half of the more than 100 remaining hostages - including Israeli men not covered by terms to free women, children, the elderly and wounded.

Egyptian mediators have suggested those issues could be set aside for now, with assurances to resolve them in later stages. A Hamas source told Reuters the militants were still holding out for a "package deal".

Overnight airstrike

At a morgue outside a Rafah hospital on Sunday morning, women wept and wailed beside rows of bodies of the Abu Anza family, 14 of whom were killed in their home in airstrike overnight. Relatives opened a black plastic body bag to kiss the face of a dead schoolgirl in a torn sweatshirt and pink unicorn pyjamas.

Later, the bodies were brought to a graveyard and buried, including two infant twins, a boy and a girl, passed down in white bundles and placed in the ground.

"My heart is gone," wailed their mother, Rania Abu Anza, who also lost her husband in the attack. "I haven't had enough time with them."

Gaza authorities said at least eight people were killed on Sunday when a truck carrying food aid from a Kuwaiti charity was hit by an air strike. There was no immediate Israeli comment.

The war was unleashed in October after Hamas fighters stormed through Israeli towns killing 1,200 people and capturing 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. Since then, Israeli forces have killed more than 30,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health authorities, with thousands more dead feared unrecovered under rubble.

Swathes of the Gaza Strip have been laid to waste, nearly the entire population has been made homeless, and the United Nations estimates a quarter of Gazans are on the verge of famine.

Residents described heavy bombardment overnight of Khan Younis, the main southern Gaza city, just to the north of Rafah. Further north, where aid no longer reaches, Gaza health authorities said 15 children had now died of malnutrition or dehydration inside the Kamal Adwan hospital where there was no power for the intensive care unit. Staff fear for the lives of six more children there.

Washington dropped 38,000 meals from military aircraft into Gaza on Saturday, though aid agencies say this was only enough to have a marginal impact given the scale of the need.

The final days leading up to the anticipated truce have been exceptionally bloody, with talks overshadowed last week by the deaths of 118 people and wounding of hundreds more near a food convoy.

Israel said on Sunday its initial review of the incident had found that most of those killed or wounded had died in a stampede. Military spokesman Daniel Hagari said Israeli troops at the scene initially fired only warning shots, though they later shot at some "looters" who "approached our forces and posed an immediate threat".

Muatasem Salah, a member of the Emergency Committee at the Ministry of Health in Gaza, told Reuters the Israeli account was contradicted by machine gun wounds.

"The wounded and martyrs are the result of being shot with heavy-caliber bullets," he said. "Any attempt to claim that people were martyred due to overcrowding or being run over is incorrect."


Malki: Palestinian Authority Will Rule Gaza After War

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki speaking at the Third Antalya Diplomatic Forum (AP)
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki speaking at the Third Antalya Diplomatic Forum (AP)
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Malki: Palestinian Authority Will Rule Gaza After War

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki speaking at the Third Antalya Diplomatic Forum (AP)
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki speaking at the Third Antalya Diplomatic Forum (AP)

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki expressed hope on Saturday for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip before the Holy month of Ramadan and he criticized Western countries for not regarding Palestinians as human beings.
Speaking at a press conference on the sidelines of the Third Antalya Diplomatic Forum held in south Türkiye, Malki said it was important to announce a ceasefire before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“It is important not only because Ramadan is a holy month, but also because the number of innocent Palestinians killed and injured is increasing by the day,” he said, adding that if “we are serious about saving lives, we have to act quickly."
Regarding who will govern Gaza after the war, Malki affirmed, “Us, the Palestinian Authority. That's for sure. No doubt about it.”
Commenting on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statements about the future of governance in Gaza, he said, “Who cares about Netanyahu? Netanyahu is an occupier (and) has no political or legal weight to say so.”
“He is saying it solely to undermine the discussion, but he has no political or legal weight,” Malki added.
“His statement has no significance, and I ignored them... so please ignore them the way that I ignored them,” he said.
Regarding Western countries' stance on events in Gaza, the FM said these countries do not regard Palestinians as human beings, possibly because they do not value Palestinian lives.
Palestinians’ lives may be less important than those of others, he noted.
Malki added that Israel has tried to “dehumanize Palestinians since day one” to have a simple way to kill them, affirming that it appears that the West is still living in the era of colonialism, as evidenced by their behavior and actions.
Unfortunately, he said, “they are unable to rid themselves of their ugly past. As a result, “they judge us precisely from that perspective.”
The FM then expressed sadness over considering Palestinians' killings, as well as the destruction of hospitals, shelters, schools, churches, and mosques as normal.
Malki also praised the achievements made at the Moscow meetings, held last Thursday in the presence of representatives of Palestinian factions, most notably Fatah, Hamas, and the Islamic Jihad.
He said the meeting was capable of solving the basic problem faced by the Palestinians in previous talks. “All participants agreed that the PLO is the body that represents all the Palestinian people,” he added, pointing out that the coming period will witness more internal Palestinian dialogues on elections.
“The conditions are now fit for reaching an internal agreement, and we feel responsibility from everyone,” the FM noted.
Meanwhile, the Gaza Contact Group panel formed during the Riyadh Arab-Islamic Summit held a meeting on the sidelines of the Antalya Forum, with the participation of Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, Egyptian FM Sameh Shourky, and Al-Maliki.
In his opening remarks at the panel, Fidan asserted that Israel's actions constitute war crimes, destabilizing the international order.
“Now we are taking this problem into our own hands. We are really taking this job with a regional responsibility. In fact, as a result of this kind of thinking, the Gaza Contact Group was commissioned at the joint OIC-Arab League Summit and is working to take responsibility for the ongoing war in Palestine”, Fidan said.
He added that the Contact Group is continuously pressuring countries supporting Israel and its attacks, aiming to increase humanitarian aid and cease-fire support from a few Western countries.
He also pointed out that the "yes" vote in the UN sessions on the humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza increased from 121 votes in October to 153 after that.
Fidan opposed the hegemony narrative, stating that the current war does not provide security for Israel, emphasizing Palestinians' need for security and self-defense.
He noted that there is another obstacle, saying international calls for a cease-fire and calls for a two-state solution have no impact on Israel.
“It is important to go to the 1967 borders. Only then will the people of Israel truly achieve sustainable security,” the FM said, underlining that Israel will not be safe unless it declares that it does not want to acquire the Palestinian territories.
The Turkish diplomat also noted that Egypt has always been at the heart of the Gaza issue and its role in international humanitarian assistance has been admirable.
For his part, Shoukry emphasized the need for a permanent solution to Israel's Gaza attacks, stating that they have caused “severe instability and insecurity in the region.”
He noted that there were difficulties in the passage of aid from Rafah due to Israeli attacks; they tried to keep the crossing open from the first stage.
Shoukry also noted that Cairo was working to convince the Israeli government to provide support to the Gazans.
“Our efforts have always been blocked. There have been manipulative and restrictive studies, especially related to the amount of aid that can be distributed. There is a very heavy pressure on our brothers in Gaza,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Oncu Keceli, the Turkish Foreign Ministry's spokesperson said that Israeli officials will be brought to justice "sooner or later" for their crimes in the besieged Palestinian enclave of Gaza.
“We are closely following the genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice,” Keceli said in a statement on his X account.
Responding to accusations published by Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz concerning a meeting between Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and the head of the Hamas Movement, Ismail Haniyeh, Keceli said, “We are convinced that sooner or later all members of the Israeli government will be brought to justice for the crimes they are committing in Gaza.”


US Begins Airdropping Aid to Gaza

In this image obtained from the US Department of Defense, a US Air Force loadmaster releases humanitarian aid pallets of food and water over Gaza, March 2, 2024. (Photo by Christopher HUBENTHAL / US Department of Defense / AFP)
In this image obtained from the US Department of Defense, a US Air Force loadmaster releases humanitarian aid pallets of food and water over Gaza, March 2, 2024. (Photo by Christopher HUBENTHAL / US Department of Defense / AFP)
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US Begins Airdropping Aid to Gaza

In this image obtained from the US Department of Defense, a US Air Force loadmaster releases humanitarian aid pallets of food and water over Gaza, March 2, 2024. (Photo by Christopher HUBENTHAL / US Department of Defense / AFP)
In this image obtained from the US Department of Defense, a US Air Force loadmaster releases humanitarian aid pallets of food and water over Gaza, March 2, 2024. (Photo by Christopher HUBENTHAL / US Department of Defense / AFP)

The US on Saturday carried out its first airdrop of humanitarian aid for civilians in the Gaza Strip.
The aid, packaged into 66 bundles on three US aircraft containing tens of thousands of meals, was dropped above Gaza’s coast where Israel is continuing its military offensive.
CENTCOM said in a statement that the US Central Command and the Royal Jordanian Air Force conducted a combined humanitarian assistance airdrop into Gaza on March 2, 2024, to provide essential relief to civilians affected by the ongoing conflict.
On Friday, US President Joe Biden announced that the US will airdrop humanitarian aid to Gaza as the United Nations warns of imminent famine amid the Israel-Hamas war.
Republicans and Democrats in Congress found themselves harshly fractured along party lines on Friday over Biden's decision to airdrop aid to Gaza.
Some international aid agencies have also criticized the President’s decision, saying it will do little to help those who are starving.
Meanwhile, several bipartisan congressmen, including the most pro-Israel members, expressed conflicting positions concerning the airdrops.
Both Republicans and Democrats agree on the issue of supporting Israel. However, several congressmen, including the most pro-Israel Democrats, have been increasingly wary of the devolving humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
“I support this move by the president,” Representative Jared Moskowitz, one of the most pro-Israel Democrats in Congress, said in a statement.
“We have to explore all possible paths to get aid into Gaza, especially since we know Hamas doesn't care about the people of Gaza,” he said.
Also, Democrats Ritchie Torres and Kathy Manning announced their support for Biden's decision. “I fully support any and all attempts to deliver urgently needed humanitarian aid to Palestinians in distress,” Torres said.
Democrat Josh Gottheimer said he supports the airdrops but also said Congress “must act” to free the hostages in Gaza and “crush Hamas.”
On the other hand, Republicans opposed the airdrops, with many citing the risk of the aid falling into Hamas' hands.
Republican Tim Burchett said, “If it gets to the children that's great but the problem we have had in the past is aid gets to the enemy.”
Others cited the Israeli war effort. “We didn't send aid to Germany and Japan in 1944. Let Israel finish the fight with Hamas and then send aid. Sending aid now helps Hamas,” said Republican Don Bacon.
Republican Jim Banks posited that Biden is “basing his foreign policy on a Michigan election that he's going to lose.”
More than 100,000 people voted “uncommitted” in Michigan's Democratic primary on Tuesday in protest of Biden's support for Israel, spooking many Democrats about their general election odds in the key swing state.
Some Democrats who support the plan signaled they are attuned to the risk of diversion but do not see it as an insurmountable obstacle.


Protesters in Syria’s Sweida Say Will Continue to Hold Peaceful Rallies

A handout picture released by the Suwayda 24 news site shows people protesting in the southern Syrian city of Sweida on February 28, 2024. (Suwayda 24/AFP)
A handout picture released by the Suwayda 24 news site shows people protesting in the southern Syrian city of Sweida on February 28, 2024. (Suwayda 24/AFP)
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Protesters in Syria’s Sweida Say Will Continue to Hold Peaceful Rallies

A handout picture released by the Suwayda 24 news site shows people protesting in the southern Syrian city of Sweida on February 28, 2024. (Suwayda 24/AFP)
A handout picture released by the Suwayda 24 news site shows people protesting in the southern Syrian city of Sweida on February 28, 2024. (Suwayda 24/AFP)

Protesters in Syria’s southern Sweida province said on Saturday they will continue to hold peaceful rallies until their demand for the implementation of United Nations Security Council resolution 2254 is met.

They also dismissed Washington’s statement that it was “greatly concerned” after the killing of a protester by security forces and over the “excessive use of force”.

Local sources in Sweida told Asharq Al-Awsat that “no one in the province is counting on a reaction from” the United States.

“It and other influential countries have only expressed their concern from the moment the first protest took place in Syria. Even after all the destruction and dozens of massacres that have taken place across the country, all they had was concern and sanctions that they claim target the regime, but all they have done was stifle and kill the Syrians,” they added.

Washington and the international community have left Syria completely exposed to Iran and Russia, while all they do is worry, they stated.

Moreover, they stressed that the protests that have been ongoing in Sweida for seven months are peaceful. Not a single violent incident has been reported.

All the people want are their legitimate rights under the constitution and law, they declared.

After 13 years of war, destruction, blood, division and looting of resources, they are not counting on international statements of sympathy, they added.

Furthermore, the Sweida protesters are upset with Washington’s position from the killing of Palestinians in Gaza.

“Israel is committing violations and massacres against hundreds of Palestinians and for all the world to see. We have not heard a condemnation from Washington. So how can we believe its condemnation of the killing of a civilian in Sweida?” wondered the sources.

The US embassy in Syria had on Friday said: “We are greatly concerned with the regime's use of excessive force against peaceful protestors in Sweida.”

“We regret the loss of civilian life and offer condolences to all those harmed, and to their families. Syrians in Sweida and everywhere deserve peace, dignity, security and justice,” it added.

On Saturday, dozens of people took to the streets of Sweida to declare that their protests will remain peaceful, days after demonstrators broke into government and Baath party offices.

On Wednesday, security forces opened fire at demonstrators to disperse them, leaving one person, Jawad al-Barouki, dead from a chest wound, according to videos circulated by activists on opposition media.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said people gathered in Sweida’s al-Karama square on Saturday to declare that they will continue to hold peaceful protests. They also called for “freedom, the ouster of the regime, implementation of resolution 2254 and release of detainees.”


RSF: We Don’t Have Heavy Weapons, Sudanese Army Is Shelling Cities

People are seen getting on a bus to leave Khartoum, Sudan. (AP)
People are seen getting on a bus to leave Khartoum, Sudan. (AP)
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RSF: We Don’t Have Heavy Weapons, Sudanese Army Is Shelling Cities

People are seen getting on a bus to leave Khartoum, Sudan. (AP)
People are seen getting on a bus to leave Khartoum, Sudan. (AP)

Ammar al-Siddiq, member of the foreign consultative council of Rapid Support Forces (RSF) leader Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, denied claims that the RSF was shelling residential areas in cities, saying the forces don't have those kinds of weapons.

Speaking to the Arab World Press, he blamed the army for the attacks on these areas. He also accused it of recruiting child soldiers.

In a statement on Friday, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk accused the RSF of recruiting hundreds of children in the Darfur region. He also said the military was recruiting children in eastern parts of Sudan.

Turk warned that such practices are flagrant violations of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPAC).

“Also troubling are the reports of civilians themselves mobilizing under the new Popular Armed Resistance movement. There are real fears this may result in the formation of an armed civil militia with no defined control, increasing the chances of Sudan sliding into a spiral of protracted civil war,” he warned.

Siddiq dismissed Turk's claims, saying the RSF has denied such accusations on several occasions.

Moreover, he revealed that the RSF found several reports, has acquired testimonies and videos that showed children and minors recruited at military camps in response to recruitment calls made by army commander Abdul Fattah al-Burhan.

He further denied that the RSF possesses heavy weapons, accusing the army of air raids that have killed scores of women, children and soldiers.

He stressed that the RSF only possesses anti-aircraft weapons that are aimed at drones, jets and army locations.

The RSF, he stressed, has the army surrounded in specific areas, so its attacks are focused on military camps, such as in Babanusa town and the Al Mohandiseen and Seidna areas in Omdurman.

In his statement, Turk added: “In the space of eleven months, at least 14,600 people have been killed, and 26,000 others injured. Actual figures are undoubtedly much higher. The toll encompasses thousands of civilians, including many children and women.”


Hochstein to Visit Beirut Seeking to Ease Israel-Lebanon Tensions

US Senior Advisor for Energy Security Amos Hochstein meets with Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati in Beirut, Lebanon June 14, 2022. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo
US Senior Advisor for Energy Security Amos Hochstein meets with Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati in Beirut, Lebanon June 14, 2022. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo
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Hochstein to Visit Beirut Seeking to Ease Israel-Lebanon Tensions

US Senior Advisor for Energy Security Amos Hochstein meets with Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati in Beirut, Lebanon June 14, 2022. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo
US Senior Advisor for Energy Security Amos Hochstein meets with Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati in Beirut, Lebanon June 14, 2022. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo

Senior White House advisor Amos Hochstein is expected to arrive early next week in Beirut for talks with Lebanese officials as part of efforts to appease the situation along the Israel-Lebanon border.
On Sunday, unnamed informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Hochstein’s talks with Lebanese officials will “carry new developments” regarding his shuttle discussions between Tel Aviv and Beirut in parallel with the efforts aiming for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Hochstein had visited Beirut in January in a bid to explore the possibility of talks on drawing the land border between Lebanon and Israel, after having mediated a 2022 deal setting the maritime borders between the two countries.
After meeting several officials then, he said that “we are living a moment of crisis”, and that there is a great need to find a diplomatic solution.
He stressed the need for reaching a diplomatic solution that allows Lebanese people to return to their homes in the south, and the Israelis to return to their homes in the north.
Hochstein’s talks with officials in Lebanon focused on the need for a ceasefire and the implementation of UN resolution 1701, in addition to Hezbollah’s withdrawal from the area between the border and the Litani River.


Ship Sunk by Houthis Threatens Red Sea Environment

A handout photo made available by Yemeni Al-Joumhouriya TV shows the British-registered cargo vessel, Rubymar, sinking after being damaged in a missile attack by the Houthis in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen, 26 February 2024 (issued 27 February 2024). EPA/Yemeni Al-Joumhouriya TV
A handout photo made available by Yemeni Al-Joumhouriya TV shows the British-registered cargo vessel, Rubymar, sinking after being damaged in a missile attack by the Houthis in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen, 26 February 2024 (issued 27 February 2024). EPA/Yemeni Al-Joumhouriya TV
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Ship Sunk by Houthis Threatens Red Sea Environment

A handout photo made available by Yemeni Al-Joumhouriya TV shows the British-registered cargo vessel, Rubymar, sinking after being damaged in a missile attack by the Houthis in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen, 26 February 2024 (issued 27 February 2024). EPA/Yemeni Al-Joumhouriya TV
A handout photo made available by Yemeni Al-Joumhouriya TV shows the British-registered cargo vessel, Rubymar, sinking after being damaged in a missile attack by the Houthis in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen, 26 February 2024 (issued 27 February 2024). EPA/Yemeni Al-Joumhouriya TV

A UK-owned ship attacked by Houthi militants last month sank in the Red Sea, the US military confirmed on Saturday, as it echoed a warning from Yemen's internationally recognized government that the vessel's cargo of hazardous fertilizer posed a risk to marine life.
The Belize-registered Rubymar is the first vessel lost since the Houthis began targeting commercial ships in November. Those drone and missile assaults have forced shipping firms to divert ships to the longer route around southern Africa, disrupting global trade by delaying deliveries and sending costs higher, Reuters said.
The sinking bulk carrier also "presents a subsurface impact risk to other ships transiting the busy shipping lanes of the waterway," US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in its statement on social media platform X.
The Iran-aligned Houthis, who control the north of Yemen and other large centers, say their campaign is a show of solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.
The Houthi attacks have prompted a series of strikes against their positions by the United States and Britain, and have led other navies to send vessels to the region to try to protect the vital Suez Canal trade route.
The Rubymar went down in the southern Red Sea late on Friday or early on Saturday, according to statements from the Yemen government and CENTCOM.
The US military previously said the Feb. 18 missile attack had significantly damaged the bulk vessel and caused an 18-mile (29-km) oil slick. The ship was carrying about 21,000 metric tons of fertilizer, CENTCOM said on Saturday.
Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, the foreign minister in Yemen's internationally recognized government in Aden, said in a post on X: "The sinking of the Rubymar is an environmental catastrophe that Yemen and the region have never experienced before.
"It is a new tragedy for our country and our people. Every day we pay the price for the adventures of the Houthi militia ..."
MARINE LIFE THREATENED
The release of such large amounts of fertilizer into the Red Sea poses a serious threat to marine life, said Ali Al-Sawalmih, director of the Marine Science Station at the University of Jordan.
The overload of nutrients can stimulate excessive growth of algae, using up so much oxygen that regular marine life cannot survive, said Al-Sawalmih, describing a process called eutrophication.
"An urgent plan should be adopted by countries of the Red Sea to establish a monitoring agenda of the polluted areas in the Red Sea as well as adopt a cleanup strategy," he said.
The overall impact depends on how ocean currents deplete the fertilizer and how it is released from the stricken vessel, said Xingchen Tony Wang, assistant professor at the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Boston College.
The ecosystem of the southern Red Sea features pristine coral reefs, coastal mangroves and diverse marine life.
Last year, the area avoided a potential environmental disaster when the United Nations removed more than 1 million barrels of oil from a decaying supertanker moored off the Yemen coast. That type of operation may be more difficult in the current circumstances.
The Houthi attacks have stoked fears that the Israel-Hamas war could spread, destabilizing the wider Middle East.
In a separate report, the UKMTO agency said it had received a report of a ship being attacked 15 nautical miles west of Yemen's port of Mokha.
"The crew took the vessel to anchor and were evacuated by military authorities," the UKMTO said in an advisory note.
Italy's defense ministry also said that one of its naval ships had shot down a drone flying towards it in the Red Sea.
The Houthi Transport Ministry, meanwhile, said there had been a "glitch" in undersea communication cables in the Red Sea as a result of actions by US and British naval vessels. It did not give further details. 


US: Israel Agreed to Framework for Gaza Ceasefire, Hamas Now Must Decide

A damaged building from Gaza is pictured, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, as seen from Southern Israel, March 2, 2024. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
A damaged building from Gaza is pictured, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, as seen from Southern Israel, March 2, 2024. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
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US: Israel Agreed to Framework for Gaza Ceasefire, Hamas Now Must Decide

A damaged building from Gaza is pictured, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, as seen from Southern Israel, March 2, 2024. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
A damaged building from Gaza is pictured, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, as seen from Southern Israel, March 2, 2024. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Israel has essentially endorsed a framework of a proposed Gaza ceasefire and hostage release deal, and it is now up to Hamas to agree to it, a senior US administration official said Saturday, a day before talks to reach an agreement were to resume in Egypt.
International mediators have been working for weeks to broker a deal to pause the fighting before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins around March 10. A deal would also likely allow aid to reach hundreds of thousands of desperate Palestinians in northern Gaza who aid officials worry are under threat of famine.
The Israelis “have more or less accepted” the proposal, which includes the six-week ceasefire as well as the release by Hamas of hostages considered vulnerable, which includes the sick, the wounded, the elderly and women, said the official.
“Right now, the ball is in the court of Hamas and we are continuing to push this as hard as we possibly can,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the White House to brief reporters.

A senior Egyptian official said mediators Egypt and Qatar are expected to receive a response from Hamas during the Cairo talks scheduled to start Sunday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not publicly authorized to discuss the sensitive talks.


US Military Planes Airdrop About 38,000 Meals Into Gaza

Children look for salvageable items amid the rubble of a Mosque and makeshift shelters that were destroyed in Israeli strikes in Deir El-Balah in central Gaza on March 2, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Children look for salvageable items amid the rubble of a Mosque and makeshift shelters that were destroyed in Israeli strikes in Deir El-Balah in central Gaza on March 2, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
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US Military Planes Airdrop About 38,000 Meals Into Gaza

Children look for salvageable items amid the rubble of a Mosque and makeshift shelters that were destroyed in Israeli strikes in Deir El-Balah in central Gaza on March 2, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Children look for salvageable items amid the rubble of a Mosque and makeshift shelters that were destroyed in Israeli strikes in Deir El-Balah in central Gaza on March 2, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

US military C-130 cargo planes on Saturday dropped food in pallets over Gaza, the first American airdrop of humanitarian aid into the Palestinian enclave, three US officials said.
Three planes from Air Forces Central dropped 66 bundles containing about 38,000 meals into Gaza at 8:30 a.m. EST, according to two of the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity before a public announcement.
The airdrop is expected to be the first of many announced by President Joe Biden on Friday. The aid will be coordinated with Jordan.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said Friday that the airdrops were being planned to deliver emergency humanitarian assistance in a safe way to people on the ground.
The C-130 cargo plane is a widely used military jet to deliver aid to remote places due to its ability to land in austere environments and cargo capacity.
A C-130 can airlift as much as 42,000 pounds of cargo and its crews know how to rig the cargo, which sometimes can include even vehicles, onto massive pallets can be safely dropped out of the back of the aircraft.
Air Force loadmasters secure the bundles onto pallets with netting that is rigged for release in the back of a C-130, and then crews release it with a parachute when the aircraft reaches the intended delivery zone.

Other countries including France, Egypt and Jordan have carried out airdrops of aid into Gaza.

At least 576,000 people in the Gaza Strip - one quarter of the enclave's population - are one step from famine, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.


Ship Attacked by Houthis Sinks in Red Sea

A handout photo shows the British-registered cargo vessel, Rubymar, sinking after being damaged in a missile attack by the Houthis in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen, 26 February 2024 (issued 27 February 2024).  EPA
A handout photo shows the British-registered cargo vessel, Rubymar, sinking after being damaged in a missile attack by the Houthis in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen, 26 February 2024 (issued 27 February 2024). EPA
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Ship Attacked by Houthis Sinks in Red Sea

A handout photo shows the British-registered cargo vessel, Rubymar, sinking after being damaged in a missile attack by the Houthis in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen, 26 February 2024 (issued 27 February 2024).  EPA
A handout photo shows the British-registered cargo vessel, Rubymar, sinking after being damaged in a missile attack by the Houthis in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen, 26 February 2024 (issued 27 February 2024). EPA

A ship attacked by Yemen's Houthi militias has sunk in the Red Sea after days of taking on water, officials said Saturday.

The Rubymar had been drifting after the attack in February. It marks the first ship sunk by the Houthis amid their monthslong attacks on shipping in the vital waterway.

Yemen's internationally recognized government, as well as a regional military official, confirmed the ship sank. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as the information had not been cleared for publication.

A statement issued by the Yemeni Foreign Ministry on Friday urged all concerned nations and regional and international organizations tasked with preserving maritime environments to take swift practical action to save the Red Sea from an imminent environmental catastrophe.

“Leaving the ship to its fate will result in serious harm to marine ecosystems and hundreds of thousands of Yemenis who rely on fishing, as well as potential damage to desalination plants along the Yemeni coast,” said the statement.