Iran Dismisses Plan by UN Nuclear Watchdog Head to Visit Next Month 

Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency speaks at the panel session during the second day of the World Government Summit in Dubai on February 13, 2024. (AFP)
Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency speaks at the panel session during the second day of the World Government Summit in Dubai on February 13, 2024. (AFP)
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Iran Dismisses Plan by UN Nuclear Watchdog Head to Visit Next Month 

Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency speaks at the panel session during the second day of the World Government Summit in Dubai on February 13, 2024. (AFP)
Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency speaks at the panel session during the second day of the World Government Summit in Dubai on February 13, 2024. (AFP)

Iran's nuclear chief on Wednesday dismissed a suggestion that the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Grossi would visit Iran next month but instead invited Grossi to a conference in Tehran in May.

Grossi said this week Iran was continuing to enrich uranium well beyond the needs for commercial nuclear use and said he planned to visit Tehran next month to tackle "drifting apart" relations between the IAEA and the country.

But Mohammad Eslami said a visit next month was unlikely due to a "busy schedule" without giving further clarification. "Iran's interactions with the IAEA continue as normal and discussions are held to resolve ambiguities and develop cooperation," he said at a weekly press conference in Tehran.

Eslami said Grossi had been invited to attend Iran's first international nuclear energy conference in May.

Speaking to Reuters on Monday, Grossi said while the pace of uranium enrichment had slowed slightly since the end of last year, Iran was still enriching at an elevated rate of around 7 kg of uranium per month to 60% purity.

Enrichment to 60% brings uranium close to weapons grade, and is not necessary for commercial use in nuclear power production. Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons, but no other state has enriched to that level without producing them.

Under a defunct 2015 agreement with world powers, Iran can enrich uranium only to 3.67%. After then-President Donald Trump pulled the US out of that deal in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions, Iran breached and moved well beyond the deal's nuclear restrictions.

The UN nuclear watchdog said the 2015 nuclear deal "is all but disintegrated."



3 Germans Arrested on Suspicion of Spying for China, Transferring Info on Potential Military Tech

German Police - May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer
German Police - May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer
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3 Germans Arrested on Suspicion of Spying for China, Transferring Info on Potential Military Tech

German Police - May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer
German Police - May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

Three people suspected of spying for China and facilitating the transfer of information on technology with potential military uses were arrested in Germany on Monday.
Prosecutors said that the three German citizens are accused of having acted for Chinese intelligence since some point before June 2022. They are also suspected of violating German export laws, The Associated Press said.
One of the suspects, identified only as Thomas R. in line with German privacy laws, was allegedly an agent for an employee of China's Ministry of State Security and procured information in Germany on “militarily usable innovative technologies” for that person, federal prosecutors said in a statement.
To do that, prosecutors said, he used Herwig F. and Ina. F, a couple who own a company in Duesseldorf that was used to contact and work with German researchers.
The couple allegedly set up a research transfer agreement with an unidentified German company, the first step in which was to draw up a study for a Chinese partner on the technology of machine parts that could be used for powerful ship engines, including those in battleships. Thomas R.'s handler at the MSS was behind the Chinese partner and the project was financed by the Chinese state, prosecutors said.
At the time of the arrests, the suspects were in negotiations on further research projects that could be useful for expanding the combat strength of the Chinese navy, they added.
The suspects also procured with MSS funding a special laser and exported it to China without permission, although it was classified as a “dual-use” instrument under European Union rules, prosecutors said.
The homes and offices of the suspects, who were arrested in Duesseldorf and in Bad Homburg, near Frankfurt, were searched.


Russia Says It Advances Near Chasiv Yar in Eastern Ukraine 

A Ukrainian tank of the 17th Tank Brigade fires at Russian positions in Chasiv Yar, the site of fierce battles with the Russian troops in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP)
A Ukrainian tank of the 17th Tank Brigade fires at Russian positions in Chasiv Yar, the site of fierce battles with the Russian troops in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP)
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Russia Says It Advances Near Chasiv Yar in Eastern Ukraine 

A Ukrainian tank of the 17th Tank Brigade fires at Russian positions in Chasiv Yar, the site of fierce battles with the Russian troops in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP)
A Ukrainian tank of the 17th Tank Brigade fires at Russian positions in Chasiv Yar, the site of fierce battles with the Russian troops in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP)

Russia said on Sunday its forces had advanced towards the town of Chasiv Yar in eastern Ukraine and seized control of the settlement of Bohdanivka, as Kyiv said it urgently needed promised US support to fend off a full-scale offensive.

"Units of the Southern grouping group of forces have fully liberated the settlement of Bohdanivka ... and have improved the situation along the front line," Russia's defense ministry said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.

Control of Bohdanivka, located just to the west of the Russian-held city of Bakhmut, has been in doubt for some time.

The village lies some 5 kilometers (3 miles) east of Chasiv Yar, a heavily fortified hilltop town and forward artillery base for the Ukrainian army, providing protection for some of the area's largest cities including Kramatorsk and Slaviansk.

The Russian report could not be independently verified and there was no comment from Ukraine regarding Bohdanivka.

The General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces, in its daily report, mentioned Bohdanivka as one of a series of villages where it said Ukrainian forces repelled 13 enemy attacks. But it gave no specific details.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his daily video address that he held talks on Sunday with army chief Oleksandr Syrskyi and Defence Minister Rustem Umerov about Chasiv Yar and other hot spots on the frontline.

In an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press", aired on Sunday, Zelenskiy urged Washington, where the US House of Representatives has approved a $60 billion in aid for Ukraine, to quickly turn the bill into law and proceed with the transfer of weapons ahead of an anticipated Russian offensive.

"We are preparing (for an offensive)," Zelenskiy said, reiterating Syrskyi's warning that Russia aims to capture the Chasiv Yar by May 9, one of Russia's largest public holidays and which marks Moscow's victory over Nazi forces in World War II.

"I hope we will be able to stay, and the weapons will come on time, and we will repel the enemy, and then we'll break the plans of the Russian Federation with regards to this full-scale offensive."

Ukraine says it expects Russia to launch a broad offensive in spring and summer after capturing the town of Avdiivka, east of Chasiv Yar, during the winter.

Ukraine's Defense Ministry denied last week that Russia had captured all of Bohdanivka, while acknowledging it had lost some positions in the village in eastern Donetsk region.


US and Philippine Forces Launch Combat Drills in Disputed South China Sea 

US Marine Corps Lieutenant General William Jurney, US Exercise Director speaks during the opening ceremonies of the "Balikatan" or Shoulder-to-Shoulder at Camp Aguinaldo military headquarters in Quezon City, Philippines on Monday April 22, 2024. (AP)
US Marine Corps Lieutenant General William Jurney, US Exercise Director speaks during the opening ceremonies of the "Balikatan" or Shoulder-to-Shoulder at Camp Aguinaldo military headquarters in Quezon City, Philippines on Monday April 22, 2024. (AP)
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US and Philippine Forces Launch Combat Drills in Disputed South China Sea 

US Marine Corps Lieutenant General William Jurney, US Exercise Director speaks during the opening ceremonies of the "Balikatan" or Shoulder-to-Shoulder at Camp Aguinaldo military headquarters in Quezon City, Philippines on Monday April 22, 2024. (AP)
US Marine Corps Lieutenant General William Jurney, US Exercise Director speaks during the opening ceremonies of the "Balikatan" or Shoulder-to-Shoulder at Camp Aguinaldo military headquarters in Quezon City, Philippines on Monday April 22, 2024. (AP)

American and Filipino forces launched their largest combat exercises in years Monday in a show of allied firepower near the disputed South China Sea that has alarmed Beijing.

The annual exercises by the longtime treaty allies will run until May 10 and involve more than 16,000 of their military personnel, along with more than 250 French and Australian forces.

While the Philippine military maintains that the Balikatan — Tagalog for “shoulder-to-shoulder” — trainings are not directed at a particular country, some of their main conflict scenarios are set in or near the disputed South China Sea, where Chinese and Philippine coast guard and accompanying ships have figured in a series of increasingly tense territorial faceoffs since last year.

In encounters in disputed areas, Chinese coast guard vessels have resorting to water cannons, blocking and other dangerous maneuvers that have caused injuries to Philippine navy personnel and damaged supply boats.

The Philippine military said a key focus of this year’s drills is territorial defense. “We’re dead serious about protecting our territory — that’s why we do these Balikatan exercises,” Col. Michael Logico, who speaks for the Philippine military on the combat drills, told The Associated Press.

As the disputes between China and the Philippines have escalated, President Joe Biden and his administration has repeatedly warned that the United States is obligated to defend the Philippines, its oldest treaty ally in Asia, if it is attacked.

US Marine Lt. Gen. William Jurney said in the ceremony that the large-scale military exercises will demonstrate that the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the US and the Philippines “is no mere piece of paper.”

Washington lays no claim to the contested waters but has declared that freedom of navigation and overflight and the peaceful resolution of the disputes are in its national interest.

Philippine military chief of staff Gen. Romeo Brawner, who opened the exercises in a ceremony, said that as Pacific coastal nations, the United States and the Philippines “understand the importance of maritime cooperation in addressing the complex challenges that threaten peace and security in our region.”

China strongly criticized the exercises, saying the Philippines was “ganging up” with countries from outside Asia in an obvious reference to the United States and its security partners, and warned that the drills could instigate confrontation and undermine regional stability.

The combat drills will include a joint sail by the US, Philippine and French navies in and near disputed waters off the western Philippine province of Palawan, the sinking of a mock enemy ship by combined US and Philippine firepower, and the retaking of an occupied island off the northwestern Philippines, according to the Philippine military.

China specifically opposed the transport of a US ground-launched missile system to the northern Philippines ahead of the exercises. No missile would be fired but the aim was to build familiarity among military participants with the hi-tech weaponry in a tropical setting.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian expressed China's grave concern over the deployment of the missile system “at China's doorstep.”

“The US move exacerbates tensions in the region and increases the risk of misjudgment and miscalculation,” he said in response to a question in a news briefing in Beijing last week. “The Philippines needs to think twice about being a cat's paw for the US at the expense of its security interests and stop sliding down the wrong path."

The Biden administration has been strengthening an arc of alliances to better counter China, including in a possible confrontation over Taiwan, an island democracy that Beijing claims as its own.

That dovetails with efforts by the Philippines under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to defend its territorial interests by boosting joint military exercises with the US. He has also allowed rotating batches of American forces to stay in additional Philippine military camps under a 2014 defense pact, including in his country's north, which lies just a sea border away from Taiwan and southern China.


Russia Says West Is Teetering on Brink of Conflict Between Nuclear Powers 

05 April 2023, Russia, Moscow: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a ceremony to receive credentials from new foreign ambassadors at the Kremlin. (Kremlin/dpa)
05 April 2023, Russia, Moscow: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a ceremony to receive credentials from new foreign ambassadors at the Kremlin. (Kremlin/dpa)
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Russia Says West Is Teetering on Brink of Conflict Between Nuclear Powers 

05 April 2023, Russia, Moscow: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a ceremony to receive credentials from new foreign ambassadors at the Kremlin. (Kremlin/dpa)
05 April 2023, Russia, Moscow: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a ceremony to receive credentials from new foreign ambassadors at the Kremlin. (Kremlin/dpa)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that the support of the United States, Britain and France for Ukraine was stoking serious strategic risks that had raised the risk of a direct confrontation between the world's biggest nuclear powers.

Lavrov said the United States and NATO were obsessed with the idea of inflicting "strategic defeat" on Russia and there were risks in such confrontation that could lead to an increased level of nuclear danger.

"The Westerners are teetering dangerously on the brink of a direct military clash between nuclear powers, which is fraught with catastrophic consequences," Lavrov said.

The United States and its allies say they are helping Ukraine to defend itself against Russian aggression and that it is Russia that is aggravating East-West tensions, including by issuing repeated warnings about the danger of a nuclear conflict.

Lavrov said: "Of particular concern is the fact that it is the 'troika' of Western nuclear states that are among the key sponsors of the criminal Kyiv regime, the main initiators of various provocative steps. We see serious strategic risks in this, leading to an increase in the level of nuclear danger."

The three Western countries with nuclear weapons are the United States, Britain and France.


North Korea Fires Ballistic Missiles, South Korea, Japan Say 

People watch a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul on April 22, 2024. (AFP)
People watch a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul on April 22, 2024. (AFP)
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North Korea Fires Ballistic Missiles, South Korea, Japan Say 

People watch a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul on April 22, 2024. (AFP)
People watch a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul on April 22, 2024. (AFP)

North Korea fired "several" short-range ballistic missiles on Monday toward the sea off its east coast, South Korea's military said, drawing a swift condemnation from Seoul, which called it a grave threat to stability on the Korean peninsula.

A Japanese government alert and its coast guard also said North Korea had fired what appeared to be a ballistic missile. The projectile appeared to have landed outside Japan's exclusive economic zone area, the NHK broadcaster said.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said the North launched what it suspected to be several short-range ballistic missiles from near its capital, Pyongyang. The missiles flew about 300 kilometers (186 miles) and landed in the sea.

The reports of the launch came as South Korea said its top military officer, Admiral Kim Myung-soo, had hosted the commander of US Space Command, General Stephen Whiting, on Monday to discuss the North's reconnaissance satellite development and growing military cooperation between Pyongyang and Moscow.

After a summit between the two countries' leaders in September, North Korea has been suspected of supplying arms and munitions to Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, although both deny that claim.

The North is believed to be preparing to launch another spy satellite, after successfully putting a reconnaissance satellite in orbit in November.

North Korea said last week that it had fired a strategic cruise missile to test a large warhead, and a new anti-aircraft missile.

Earlier in April, the North fired a new intermediate-range hypersonic missile as part of its development of solid-fueled missiles for all ranges of its arsenal, overseen by its leader, Kim Jong Un.

"North Korea is all-in on rapid weapons development, not just for military advantage, but also for the Kim regime’s techno-nationalist political legitimacy," said Professor Leif-Eric Easley of Ewha University in Seoul.

The North has defied a ban by the United Nations Security Council on developing ballistic missiles, rejecting Council resolutions as infringing on its sovereign right to defend itself.

Russia last month vetoed the annual renewal of the monitoring of sanctions imposed against North Korea, leading US and South Korean officials to accuse Moscow of emboldening Pyongyang. China abstained from the Security Council vote.

Russia and China, which had both voted to approve all Security Council resolutions against the North, have tried unsuccessfully to require the sanctions to be renewed annually.


Belgian FM: New Iran Sanctions Should Include Revolutionary Guards

Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. (AFP)
Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. (AFP)
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Belgian FM: New Iran Sanctions Should Include Revolutionary Guards

Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. (AFP)
Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. (AFP)

New European Union sanctions against Iran in response to the country's recent attack on Israel should include the Revolutionary Guards, Belgium's Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib said on Monday.
Speaking to journalists ahead of an EU ministers' meeting in Luxembourg, Lahbib said that so far there was no consensus on what legal basis the Guards could be added to bloc-wide list of entities seen as terrorist organizations, Reuters reported.
"We will discuss it together", she said, adding: "I also think we have to expand sanctions against violent settlers (in the Palestinian West Bank). We have to be balanced and make sure we won't be accused of having double standards.”


Iran's Supreme Leader Tacitly Acknowledges that Tehran Hit Little in Its Attack on Israel

This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows the dual-use civilian airport and air base in Isfahan, Iran, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)
This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows the dual-use civilian airport and air base in Isfahan, Iran, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)
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Iran's Supreme Leader Tacitly Acknowledges that Tehran Hit Little in Its Attack on Israel

This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows the dual-use civilian airport and air base in Isfahan, Iran, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)
This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows the dual-use civilian airport and air base in Isfahan, Iran, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)

Iran's supreme leader on Sunday dismissed any discussion of whether Tehran's unprecedented drone-and-missile attack on Israel hit anything there, a tacit acknowledgment that despite launching a major assault, few projectiles actually made it through to their targets.
Ali Khamenei's comments before senior military leaders didn't touch on the apparent Israeli retaliatory strike on Friday on the central city of Isfahan, even though air defenses opened fire and Iran grounded commercial flights across much of the country, The Associated Press said.
Analysts believe both Iran and Israel, regional archrivals locked in a shadow war for years, are trying to dial back tensions following a series of escalatory attacks between them as the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip rages on and inflames the wider region.
Khamenei, 85, made the comments in a meeting attended by the top ranks of Iran's regular military, police and paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, a powerful force within its Shiite theocracy.
“Debates by the other party about how many missiles were fired, how many of them hit the target and how many didn’t, these are of secondary importance," Khamenei said in remarks aired by state television.
“The main issue is the emergence of the Iranian nation and Iranian military’s will in an important international arena. This is what matters.”
Iran launched hundreds of drones, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles that sought to overwhelm Israel's air defenses in the April 13 attack .
However, Israeli air defenses and fighter jets, backed by the US, the United Kingdom and neighboring Jordan, shot down the vast majority of the incoming fire.
Satellite images analyzed Saturday by The Associated Press showed the Iranian attack caused only minor damage at the Nevatim air base in southern Israel, including taking a chunk out of a taxiway that Israel quickly repaired.
Iran's attack came in response to a suspected Israeli strike on April 1 targeting a consular building next to the Iranian Embassy in Damascus, Syria, which killed two Guard generals and others.
“Today, thanks to the work done by our armed forces, the Revolutionary Guard, the army, the police, each in its own way, praise be to Allah the image of the country around the world has become commendable," added Khamenei, despite Iran facing public anger over its economy and crackdowns on dissent.


Parisians Protest Against Islamophobia

A woman shouts slogans into a megaphone as a protester holds a placard reading "To support Palestinians is not a crime" during a protest "against racism, against Islamophobia" at the call of various organisations in Paris on April 21, 2024. (Photo by Antonin UTZ / AFP)
A woman shouts slogans into a megaphone as a protester holds a placard reading "To support Palestinians is not a crime" during a protest "against racism, against Islamophobia" at the call of various organisations in Paris on April 21, 2024. (Photo by Antonin UTZ / AFP)
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Parisians Protest Against Islamophobia

A woman shouts slogans into a megaphone as a protester holds a placard reading "To support Palestinians is not a crime" during a protest "against racism, against Islamophobia" at the call of various organisations in Paris on April 21, 2024. (Photo by Antonin UTZ / AFP)
A woman shouts slogans into a megaphone as a protester holds a placard reading "To support Palestinians is not a crime" during a protest "against racism, against Islamophobia" at the call of various organisations in Paris on April 21, 2024. (Photo by Antonin UTZ / AFP)

A crowd of around 2,000 people protested in Paris against racism, Islamophobia and violence against children on Sunday after a court allowed their demonstration to go ahead.
Bans on protests have been more frequent in France in recent months amid tensions stirred by Israel's war on Hamas in Gaza. In a country that is home to large Muslim and Jewish communities, authorities have banned many pro-Palestinian demonstrations and public gatherings, citing the risk of antisemitic hate crimes and violence.
On Sunday, the protesters marched peacefully from the multi-ethnic Barbes neighborhood towards Place de la Republique, Reuters reported. Many chanted slogans remembering Nahel, a 17-year-old of North African descent who was fatally shot during a police traffic stop last year.
Paris police chief Laurent Nunez told broadcaster BFM TV he initially chose to ban the march because in announcing the protest the organizers had likened French police violence to the war in Gaza, and he felt the event could cause a threat to public order.
That argument was rejected by Paris's administrative court in a fast-track decision.
"Fighting and mobilizing for the protection of all children is normal, it should be," said Yessa Belkgodja, one of the organizers of the march, welcoming the court's decision.
"If we are banned from protesting, it means we don’t have the right to express ourselves in France (..) We are being monitored on social media. That's enough, leave us alone", said Yamina Ayad, a retiree who was wrapped in Palestine flag.


Iran Ramps up Crackdown as Regional Tensions Rage

Iranians walk past shops in the capital Tehran on April 21, 2024. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)
Iranians walk past shops in the capital Tehran on April 21, 2024. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)
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Iran Ramps up Crackdown as Regional Tensions Rage

Iranians walk past shops in the capital Tehran on April 21, 2024. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)
Iranians walk past shops in the capital Tehran on April 21, 2024. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)

Executions of convicts, arrests of dissidents and a resurgence in patrols enforcing the obligatory wearing of hijabs: Iran is stepping up repression at home as tensions flare with its arch-foe Israel, activists say.

Iranians have endured increased repression since nationwide protests were sparked from September 2022 by the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested for allegedly flouting the mandatory dress rules for women.

But the crackdown has entered a new phase as fears of a regional conflict surge, with Israel launching an apparent strike on Iran on Friday, Agence France Presse reported.

Activists have reported that the dreaded white vans of the "morality police" have returned to city squares across Iran, picking up women deemed to have violated the rule of obligatory hijab.

Tehran police chief Abbas Ali Mohammadian openly announced the latest crackdown on April 13, with local media saying it was codenamed "Nour" ("light" in Persian).

Multiple videos posted on social media -- under the hashtag "jang aliyeh zanan" ("war against women") -- have shown women being bundled into vans by male police in body armor accompanied by female police agents.

Iran “has turned the streets into a battlefield against women and youth," 2023 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and jailed rights activist Narges Mohammadi wrote in a message from Tehran's Evin prison and published by her supporters on social media.

In one video filmed close to the Tajrish metro station in northern Tehran, a woman collapses on the ground after being apprehended by the police, telling bystanders who then seek to revive her that her phone was confiscated.

Another includes what appears to be the sound of police using electric shock against women who had been rounded up and put into a van, AFP said.

"Amid increasing dissent at home and international attention focused on regional tensions, the Islamic republic is grabbing the opportunity to intensify its campaign of repression against dissent," said the director of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran, Hadi Ghaemi.

"Without a firm international response, the Islamic Republic will be emboldened to intensify its violence against women and its egregious violations of human rights," said Ghaemi.

Hundreds were killed, according to rights groups, and thousands arrested, according to the United Nations, in the crackdown on the 2022 protests that represented one of the biggest challenges to the Islamic republic.

Among those arrested in recent days was Aida Shahkarami, the sister of Nika Shahkarami, 16, who died during the 2022 crackdown, her mother Nasrin wrote on social media.

Aida was detained "for not wearing the mandatory hijab," Nasrin Shahkarami wrote on social media.

Nika Shahkarami was found dead during the protests, with some family members accusing the security forces of killing her.

Dina Ghalibaf, a journalist and student at Tehran's Shahid Beheshti University, was arrested after accusing security forces on social media of putting her in handcuffs and sexually assaulting her during a previous arrest at a metro station, according to the Norway-based Hengaw rights group.

Executions, which activists say are used by Tehran as a means to instil fear into society, have also continued apace, with at least 110 people executed this year alone according to the Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) group.

Among those executed in recent days were a married couple, Esmail Hassaniani, 29, and his wife Marjan Hajizadeh, 19, who were sentenced to death for drug-related charges in a joint case and hanged in Zanjan central prison on 11 April, according to IHR.

"The regime will without any doubt use this opportunity to tighten the grip inside the country," said IHR director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam.

"They still haven't managed to take the control that they had before September 2022. They may have the opportunity to do so now, if all the international attention goes to the escalating tension with Israel."


Netanyahu Says Will Fight Any Sanctions on Army Battalions

Israeli soldiers operate during a raid, at Nour Shams camp, in Tulkarm, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, April 20, 2024. REUTERS/Raneen Sawafta
Israeli soldiers operate during a raid, at Nour Shams camp, in Tulkarm, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, April 20, 2024. REUTERS/Raneen Sawafta
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Netanyahu Says Will Fight Any Sanctions on Army Battalions

Israeli soldiers operate during a raid, at Nour Shams camp, in Tulkarm, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, April 20, 2024. REUTERS/Raneen Sawafta
Israeli soldiers operate during a raid, at Nour Shams camp, in Tulkarm, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, April 20, 2024. REUTERS/Raneen Sawafta

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he would fight against sanctions being imposed on any Israeli military units after media reported that Washington was planning such a step against a battalion for alleged rights violations.
The military said that its "Netzah Yehuda" battalion is an active combat unit that operates according to the principles of international law.
Following publications about sanctions against the battalion, the military “is not aware of the issue. If a decision is made on the matter it will be reviewed,” it said.
The military “works and will continue to work to investigate any unusual event in a practical manner and according to law," it added.
"If anyone thinks they can impose sanctions on a unit of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) - I will fight it with all my strength," Netanyahu said in a statement.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Sunday that the US was also considering similar moves against other police and military units.
The sanctions, which would be imposed under the 1997 Leahy law, would prohibit the transfer of US military aid to the unit and prevent soldiers and officers participating in training either with the US military or in programs that receive US funding.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday said he had made “determinations” over the claim that Israel had violated the Leahy law, which prohibits the provision of military assistance to police or security units that commit gross violations of human rights.