Haiti Orders Nightly Curfew After Weekend of Violence, Prison Break

This screen grab taken from AFPTV shows tires on fire near the main prison of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on March 3, 2024. (Photo by Luckenson JEAN / AFPTV / AFP)
This screen grab taken from AFPTV shows tires on fire near the main prison of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on March 3, 2024. (Photo by Luckenson JEAN / AFPTV / AFP)
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Haiti Orders Nightly Curfew After Weekend of Violence, Prison Break

This screen grab taken from AFPTV shows tires on fire near the main prison of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on March 3, 2024. (Photo by Luckenson JEAN / AFPTV / AFP)
This screen grab taken from AFPTV shows tires on fire near the main prison of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on March 3, 2024. (Photo by Luckenson JEAN / AFPTV / AFP)

Authorities have ordered a nighttime curfew trying to regain control of Haiti's streets after an explosion of violence during the weekend, including gunmen from gangs overrunning the country's two biggest prisons and freeing their inmates.
A 72-hour state of emergency began Sunday night, and the government said it would set out to find the killers, kidnappers and other violent criminals that it reported escaped from prison.
“The police were ordered to use all legal means at their disposal to enforce the curfew and apprehend all offenders,” said a statement from Finance Minister Patrick Boivert, who is serving as acting prime minister.
Prime Minister Ariel Henry traveled abroad last week to try to salvage support for bringing in a United Nations-backed security force to help stabilize Haiti in its conflict with increasingly powerful crime groups.
The emergency decree was issued after a deadly weekend that marked a new low in Haiti's downward spiral of violence. At least nine people had been killed since Thursday — four of them police officers — as gangs stepped up coordinated attacks on state institutions in Port-au-Prince, including the country's international airport and the national soccer stadium.

But the attack on the National Penitentiary late Saturday was a big shock Haitians, even though they are accustomed to living under the constant threat of violence, The Associated Press reported.
Almost all of the estimated 4,000 inmates escaped, leaving the normally overcrowded prison eerily empty Sunday with no guards in sight and plastic sandals, clothing and furniture strewn across the concrete patio. Three bodies with gunshot wounds lay at the prison entrance.
In another neighborhood, the bloodied corpses of two men with their hands tied behind the backs lay face down as residents walked past roadblocks set up with burning tires.
Among the few dozen that chose to stay in the prison are 18 former Colombian soldiers accused of working as mercenaries in the July 2021 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. Amid the fighting Saturday night, several of the Colombians shared a video pleading for their lives.



Iran's Israel Strike Coincided with Crackdown on Dissent at Home

Iranian women walk on a street amid the implementation of the new hijab surveillance in Tehran, Iran, April 15, 2023. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS/File photo
Iranian women walk on a street amid the implementation of the new hijab surveillance in Tehran, Iran, April 15, 2023. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS/File photo
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Iran's Israel Strike Coincided with Crackdown on Dissent at Home

Iranian women walk on a street amid the implementation of the new hijab surveillance in Tehran, Iran, April 15, 2023. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS/File photo
Iranian women walk on a street amid the implementation of the new hijab surveillance in Tehran, Iran, April 15, 2023. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS/File photo

The same day Iran launched its first ever direct attack on Israel it embarked on a less-noticed confrontation at home, ordering police in several cities to take to the streets to arrest women accused of flouting its strict Islamic dress code.

Iranian authorities insist that their so-called Nour (Light) campaign targets businesses and individuals who defy the hijab law, aiming to respond to demands from devout citizens who are angry about the growing number of unveiled women in public.

But activists and some politicians told Reuters the campaign appears aimed not only at enforcing mandatory hijab-wearing, but also at discouraging any wider dissent at a vulnerable moment for the clerical rulers.

The government of hardliner President Ibrahim Raisi intensified implementation of the hijab laws, which oblige women to cover their hair and wear long, loose-fitting clothes. Offenders face public rebuke, fines or arrest.

The laws have become a political flashpoint since protests over the death of a young woman in the custody of the country's “morality police” in 2022 spiraled into the worst political turmoil since the 1979 Revolution.

In a show of civil disobedience, unveiled women have frequently appeared in public since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. Security forces violently put down the subsequent revolt, which called for the government's downfall.

As Iran's drone and missile assault unfolded on April 13, Tehran Police chief Abbasali Mohammadian went on state TV to announce the new campaign.

ARRESTS

“Starting today, Police in Tehran and other cities will carry out measures against those who violate the hijab law,” he said, while hundreds of police swept onto the streets of the capital and other cities.

Social media users posted pictures of a heavy morality police presence in Tehran and videos of police violently arresting women they alleged were improperly dressed, including plainclothes security forces dragging young women into police vans.

Morality police vans had largely vanished from the streets since last year.

The campaign rapidly drew public expressions of unease.

Concerned about what they say could be a deepening rift between the establishment and society at large, some politicians have criticized the intensified crackdown.

Reformist politician Azar Mansouri posted on social media platform X, “... right at a time when national solidarity is more crucial than ever, the same ugly scenes (witnessed during the protests) are intensifying with more violence against Iranian women and girls! What kind of policy is this?”

Former Labor minister Ali Rabeie posted on his X account: “I really don't understand when Iranian people feel good and are proud about confronting Israel, suddenly a group (of decision makers) push the society towards confrontation with the establishment?”

Some others suspect the campaign had a political motive.

A human rights activist in Tehran said the move was aimed at “injecting fear into society to prevent any anti-war protests and quell domestic dissent when the rulers are at war with Israel.”

TOUGHER STANCE

The activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity, said, “It is no coincidence that on the very day of the attack on Israel, police flooded the streets. They were concerned about the resurgence of unrest.”

The prospect of a war with Israel, after a series of tit-for-tat retaliation between the arch foes, has alarmed many ordinary Iranians already facing an array of problems, ranging from economic misery to tightening social and political controls after the nationwide unrest in 2022-23.

A former moderate government official said the clerical rulers had adopted a tougher stance against voices calling for political and social changes, fearing that such views could gain traction at a time when Iran is under external pressure.

“That is part of the rulers' strategy to consolidate their grip on power when the country faces threats from its arch enemy Israel,” said the former official.

An Iranian politician, a former lawmaker, said “it is not just about cracking down on women who violate the dress code. In the past days, we have witnessed a clear crackdown on any sign of dissent.”

Journalists, lawyers, activists, human rights advocates and students have been arrested, summoned or faced other measures in the past days, according to opposition news websites.

Those websites said the primary charge against those arrested was “inciting public opinion.”

On April 14, the intelligence unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guards warned against any pro-Israeli posts by social media users, state media reported.


IAEA: Iran is Weeks Away from Having Enough Enriched Uranium to Develop Nuclear Bomb

Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) attends an IAEA Board of Governors meeting at the agency's headquarters in Vienna, Austria on April 11, 2024. (AFP)
Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) attends an IAEA Board of Governors meeting at the agency's headquarters in Vienna, Austria on April 11, 2024. (AFP)
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IAEA: Iran is Weeks Away from Having Enough Enriched Uranium to Develop Nuclear Bomb

Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) attends an IAEA Board of Governors meeting at the agency's headquarters in Vienna, Austria on April 11, 2024. (AFP)
Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) attends an IAEA Board of Governors meeting at the agency's headquarters in Vienna, Austria on April 11, 2024. (AFP)

Head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Mariano Grossi has warned that Iran is “weeks rather than months” away from having enough enriched uranium to develop a nuclear bomb.

Grossi told the German Deutsche Welle channel Tuesday that although uranium enrichment at near weapons-grade levels is a cause for alarm, one cannot draw the direct conclusion that Iran now has a nuclear weapon.

“That does not mean that Iran has or would have a nuclear weapon in that space of time,” he added.

The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog said “a functional nuclear warhead requires many other things independently from the production of the fissile material,” adding that Iran’s nuclear goals are “a matter of speculation.”

Iran has been enriching uranium to up to 60 percent purity since April 2021 in the Natanz and Fordow facilities.

The latest report issued by Grossi said Iran’s total stock of nuclear material stands at 27 times the limit agreed in the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal.

At the end of 2023, the IAEA warned that Tehran already had enough material to make three nuclear bombs if it enriches the material now at 60% to beyond 60%.

On Tuesday, Grossi said the IAEA is not getting the level of access he believes it needs in Iran, which he said added more to the speculation around Tehran's nuclear program.

“I have been telling my Iranian counterparts time and again [...] this activity raises eyebrows and compounded with the fact that we are not getting the necessary degree of access and visibility that I believe should be necessary,” he said.

“When you put all of that together, then, of course, you end up with lots of question marks.”

Grossi then highlighted unresolved IAEA findings, including traces of enriched uranium in unexpected locations, exacerbating doubts about Iran's transparency.

“This has been at the center of this dialogue that I have been and I am still trying to conduct with Iran,” he explained.

Grossi is expected to issue a report on Iran’s nuclear activities next month, weeks before the IAEA Board of Governors meet in Vienna.

Grossi wanted to visit Tehran in February ahead of the regular meeting of the Agency’s Board of Governors in March.

Instead, Iran invited the head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog to a conference in Tehran in May.

Turning to the escalating tensions between Israel and Iran, Grossi condemned any notion of attacking nuclear facilities.

“Attacking nuclear facilities is an absolute no-go,” he said.

Reacting to reports of talks between the United States and Iran, the IAEA chief said his agency always tries to promote dialogue.

Meanwhile, Iranian lawmaker Javad Karimi Ghoddusi said Iran is only “a one-week gap from the issuance of the order to the first test” of a nuclear bomb, if instructed to do so by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Ghoddusi’s statement came hours after Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani denied any intention by his country to change the course of its nuclear program. “Nuclear weapons have no place in our nuclear doctrine,” the spokesperson said.


Zelenskiy Says Aid Approval to Ukraine Reinforces US Role as ‘Beacon of Democracy

Supporters of Ukraine hold flags outside the US Capitol Building after the Senate passed the 95 billion USD national security supplemental that includes aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, USA, 23 April 2024.  EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS
Supporters of Ukraine hold flags outside the US Capitol Building after the Senate passed the 95 billion USD national security supplemental that includes aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, USA, 23 April 2024. EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS
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Zelenskiy Says Aid Approval to Ukraine Reinforces US Role as ‘Beacon of Democracy

Supporters of Ukraine hold flags outside the US Capitol Building after the Senate passed the 95 billion USD national security supplemental that includes aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, USA, 23 April 2024.  EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS
Supporters of Ukraine hold flags outside the US Capitol Building after the Senate passed the 95 billion USD national security supplemental that includes aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, USA, 23 April 2024. EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Wednesday that the US Senate's approval of a multi-billion aid package for Ukraine reinforces America's role as a "beacon of democracy."

"I am grateful to the US Senate for (Tuesday's) approval of vital aid to Ukraine," Zelenskiy said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.
"This vote reinforces America's role as a beacon of democracy and leader of the free world."

The Senate approved by 79 to 18 four bills passed by the House of Representatives on Saturday, after House Republican leaders abruptly switched course last week and allowed a vote on the $95 billion in mostly military aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan and US partners in the Indo-Pacific.

The four bills were combined into one package in the Senate, which President Joe Biden said he would sign into law on Wednesday.

The largest provides $61 billion in critically needed funding for Ukraine; a second provides $26 billion for Israel and humanitarian aid for civilians in conflict zones around the world, and a third mandates $8.12 billion to "counter communist China" in the Indo-Pacific.
A fourth, which the House added to the package last week, includes a potential ban on the Chinese-controlled social media app TikTok, measures for the transfer of seized Russian assets to Ukraine and new sanctions on Iran.
Biden's administration is already preparing a $1 billion military aid package for Ukraine, the first sourced from the bill, two US officials told Reuters. It includes vehicles, Stinger air defense munitions, additional ammunition for high-mobility artillery rocket systems, 155 millimeter artillery ammunition, TOW and Javelin anti-tank munitions and other weapons that can immediately be put to use on the battlefield.


Argentina Asks Interpol to Arrest Iran Minister over Jewish Center Bombing

Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi during a press conference. Reuters
Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi during a press conference. Reuters
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Argentina Asks Interpol to Arrest Iran Minister over Jewish Center Bombing

Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi during a press conference. Reuters
Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi during a press conference. Reuters

Argentina has asked Interpol to arrest Iran's interior minister over the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people, the foreign ministry said Tuesday.

The Iranian minister, Ahmad Vahidi, is part of a delegation from Tehran currently visiting Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and Interpol has issued a red alert seeking his arrest at the request of Argentina, the ministry said in a statement.

Argentina has also asked those two governments to arrest Vahidi, it added, according to Agence France Presse.

On April 12, a court in Argentina placed blame on Iran for the 1994 attack against the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires and for a bombing two years earlier against the Israeli embassy, which killed 29 people.

The 1994 assault has never been claimed or solved, but Argentina and Israel have long suspected the Iran-backed group Hezbollah carried it out at Iran's request.

Prosecutors have charged top Iranian officials with ordering the attack, though Tehran has denied any involvement.

The court also implicated Hezbollah and called the attack against the AMIA -- the deadliest in Argentina's history -- a "crime against humanity."

Tuesday's statement from the foreign ministry said: "Argentina seeks the international arrest of those responsible for the AMIA attack of 1994, which killed 85 people, and who remain in their positions with total impunity."

"One of them is Ahmad Vahidi, sought by Argentine justice as one of those responsible for the attack against AMIA," said the statement, which was co-signed by the security ministry.

Argentina has previously stated that Vahidi, a former senior member of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps, is one of the key masterminds of the AMIA bombing and sought his extradition.


US Issues New Sanctions Tied to Iran Revolutionary Guard Cyber Unit

The US Treasury Department building, June 6, 2019, in Washington. (AP)
The US Treasury Department building, June 6, 2019, in Washington. (AP)
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US Issues New Sanctions Tied to Iran Revolutionary Guard Cyber Unit

The US Treasury Department building, June 6, 2019, in Washington. (AP)
The US Treasury Department building, June 6, 2019, in Washington. (AP)

The US designated four individuals and two companies linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guard cyber command, the Treasury Department said on Tuesday.

The sanctions targets were involved in cyber operations aimed at more than a dozen US companies and government entities, the Treasury Department said in a statement.

The sanctions target Mehrsam Andisheh Saz Nik and others acting as front companies for the Revolutionary Guard cyber command, the Treasury said.


Long-Awaited Aid to Ukraine Poised to Pass US Congress, Weapons Coming Soon

 Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., arrives as the Senate prepares to advance the $95 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan passed by the House, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (AP)
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., arrives as the Senate prepares to advance the $95 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan passed by the House, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (AP)
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Long-Awaited Aid to Ukraine Poised to Pass US Congress, Weapons Coming Soon

 Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., arrives as the Senate prepares to advance the $95 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan passed by the House, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (AP)
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., arrives as the Senate prepares to advance the $95 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan passed by the House, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (AP)

Billions of dollars in foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan should easily win approval in the US Senate this week, after the House of Representatives abruptly ended a months-long stalemate and approved the assistance in a rare Saturday session.

The Senate on Tuesday will take up the package of four bills passed by the House, one providing $61 billion for Ukraine, a second with $26 billion for Israel, a third with $8.12 billion "to counter communist China" in the Indo-Pacific and a fourth that includes a potential ban on the social media app TikTok, measures for the transfer of seized Russian assets to Ukraine and new sanctions on Iran.

The package could pass the Democratic-led Senate as soon as late Tuesday. Democratic President Joe Biden has promised to sign it quickly into law.

Two US officials told Reuters the administration was already preparing a $1 billion military aid package for Ukraine, the first to be sourced from the bill.

That would clear the way for shipments of military assistance to Ukraine within days, boosting morale for its troops fighting Russian invaders. The influx of weapons should improve Kyiv's chances of averting a major Russian breakthrough in the east, analysts said, although it would have been more helpful if the aid had come closer to when Biden requested it last year.

"I ask my colleagues to join together to pass the supplemental today as expeditiously as possible, send our friends abroad the aid they have long been waiting for," Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a speech as the Senate opened.

As he urged support, Republican leader Mitch McConnell said failing to support allies emboldened rivals like China and Russia, and denounced isolationism. "Today, the Senate sits for a test on behalf of the entire nation. It’s a test of American resolve, our readiness, and our willingness to lead," he said.

It was not immediately clear how the money for Israel would affect the conflict in Gaza - Israel already receives billions of dollars in security assistance from the United States. The package includes humanitarian assistance, which supporters hope will help Palestinians in Gaza.

Humanitarian concerns

The Israel bill passed the House by an overwhelming 366 to 58 - with 21 Republicans and 37 Democrats opposed. The Republican "no" votes came from hardliners who generally oppose foreign aid. Democrats who voted no said they wanted more done to ease the devastating humanitarian toll of Israel's campaign in Gaza as it retaliates for the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas fighters that killed 1,200 people and resulted in around 250 being taken hostage.

The Israeli military assault that followed those attacks has killed more than 34,000 people in Gaza, according to Gaza health authorities.

The Senate passed security aid for Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific more than two months ago, with support of 70% of the 100-member chamber, both Republicans and Democrats.

The White House said Biden told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a phone call on Monday that his administration would provide new security assistance "to meet Ukraine's urgent battlefield and air defense needs" as soon as he signs the supplemental spending bills into law.

The legislation's progress has been closely watched by industry, with US defense firms up for major contracts to supply equipment for Ukraine and other US partners. Backers of the foreign assistance stress that approving the Ukraine bill would create many American jobs.

Experts expect the supplemental spending to boost the order backlog of RTX along with other major companies that receive government contracts, such as Lockheed Martin , General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman.

Congressional aides said the funding for Ukraine includes $8 billion in Presidential Drawdown Authority, which lets Biden send equipment to Ukraine from U.S. stocks.

The House passed the Ukraine funding by 311-112, with all 112 "no" votes coming from Republicans, many of whom were bitterly opposed to providing further assistance to Kyiv. Only 101 Republicans voted for it, forcing Speaker Mike Johnson to rely on Democratic support and prompting calls for his ouster as House leader.

However, the House left Washington for a week-long recess, without triggering a vote to remove Johnson.


UK Puts Its Defense Industry on ‘War Footing’ as It Gives Ukraine $620 Million in New Military Aid

 British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk meet at the Chancellery of the Prime Minister in Warsaw, Poland, April, 23, 2024. (Reuters)
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk meet at the Chancellery of the Prime Minister in Warsaw, Poland, April, 23, 2024. (Reuters)
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UK Puts Its Defense Industry on ‘War Footing’ as It Gives Ukraine $620 Million in New Military Aid

 British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk meet at the Chancellery of the Prime Minister in Warsaw, Poland, April, 23, 2024. (Reuters)
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk meet at the Chancellery of the Prime Minister in Warsaw, Poland, April, 23, 2024. (Reuters)

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced Tuesday that the country is putting its defense industry on a “war footing” by increasing defense spending to 2.5% of GDP by the end of the decade, amid NATO concerns of possible repercussions of Russia's war in Ukraine.

Sunak made the announcement to increase spending to well above the 2% target set by NATO during a visit to the Polish capital, Warsaw. It came on the heels of a new pledge to send arms worth 500 million pounds ($620 million) to Ukraine, including missiles, armored vehicles and ammunition.

He described the increased spending as the “biggest strengthening of our national defense for a generation."

“In a world that is the most dangerous it has been since the end of the Cold War, we cannot be complacent," he said at a news briefing alongside NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. “As our adversaries align, we must do more to defend our country, our interests and our values."

Sunak promised an extra 75 billion pounds ($93 billion) in defense spending over the next six years. The target of 2.5% of GDP spending was a re-commitment of a target set by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2022.

Sunak and his Treasury chief, Jeremy Hunt, had previously only said the 2.5% goal would be met when the economic conditions allow.

“We will put the UK’s own defense industry on a war footing,” Sunak said to an audience of British troops serving on NATO's eastern front. “One of the central lessons of the war in Ukraine is that we need deeper stockpiles of munitions, and for industry to be able to replenish them more quickly.”

Under the new spending plan, Britain’s defense budget will increase immediately and then rise steadily to reach 87 billion pounds at the end the decade.

A decade ago, NATO leaders agreed to commit 2% of GDP to defense spending. Britain has spent above that over the past decade but never higher than 2.35% in 2020, according to NATO data.

UK official figures showed that defense spending last year was about 55.5 billion pounds. NATO data showed that this amounted to about 2.07% of the UK’s GDP, ahead of countries including France and Germany but behind Poland, the U.S., Estonia and others.

Sunak spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to confirm the assistance and "assure him of the UK’s steadfast support for Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s brutal and expansionist ambitions,” Sunak's office said.

UK authorities said the new commitment to Ukraine included 400 vehicles, 60 boats, 1,600 munitions and 4 million rounds of ammunition, at a time when Ukraine is struggling to hold off advancing Russian forces on the eastern front line of the war, now in its third year.

The shipment will include British Storm Shadow long-range missiles, which have a range of some 150 miles (240 kilometers) and have proved effective at hitting Russian targets.

Sunak said that Britain's commitment “shows that Ukraine is not alone, and Ukraine will never be alone.”

However, Downing Street did not indicate whether the aid would be immediately available for delivery. Zelenskyy has pleaded for greater international assistance, warning that his country will lose the war without it.

The announcement came three days after the US House of Representatives approved $61 billion in aid for Ukraine, as American lawmakers raced to deliver a fresh round of US support to the war-torn ally. The Senate was expected to vote on the package Tuesday.

Ammunition shortages over the past six months have led Ukrainian military commanders to ration shells, a disadvantage that Russia has seized on this year — taking the city of Avdiivka and currently inching towards the town of Chasiv Yar, also in the eastern Donetsk region.


Iran's FM Calls EU Sanctions 'Regrettable'

Iranians walk near an anti-Israel banner carrying pictures of Iranian missiles and drones in Tehran, Iran, 22 April 2024. EPA/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH
Iranians walk near an anti-Israel banner carrying pictures of Iranian missiles and drones in Tehran, Iran, 22 April 2024. EPA/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH
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Iran's FM Calls EU Sanctions 'Regrettable'

Iranians walk near an anti-Israel banner carrying pictures of Iranian missiles and drones in Tehran, Iran, 22 April 2024. EPA/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH
Iranians walk near an anti-Israel banner carrying pictures of Iranian missiles and drones in Tehran, Iran, 22 April 2024. EPA/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH

European Union sanctions announced following Iran's attack against Israel are "regrettable" because the country was acting in self-defense, Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian posted on X on Tuesday.
Iran launched more than 300 drones and missiles on Israel in what it said was retaliation against a suspected Israeli bombing of its embassy compound in Damascus.
On Monday, EU foreign ministers agreed in principle to expand sanctions on Iran by agreeing to extend restrictive measures on Tehran's weapons exports of any drone or missile to Iranian proxies and Russia.
"It is regrettable to see the EU deciding quickly to apply more unlawful restrictions against Iran just because Iran exercised its right to self-defense in the face of Israel’s reckless aggression," Amirabdollahian said on X, before calling on the EU to apply sanctions on Israel instead.
More work will need to follow in Brussels to approve a legal framework before the expansion of the sanctions can take effect, Reuters reported.


Satellite Photos Suggest Iran Radar System for Russian-made Air Defense Battery Struck in Isfahan

Burn marks surround what analysts identify as a radar system for a Russian-made S-300 missile battery, center, near an international airport and air base is seen in Isfahan, Iran, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)
Burn marks surround what analysts identify as a radar system for a Russian-made S-300 missile battery, center, near an international airport and air base is seen in Isfahan, Iran, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)
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Satellite Photos Suggest Iran Radar System for Russian-made Air Defense Battery Struck in Isfahan

Burn marks surround what analysts identify as a radar system for a Russian-made S-300 missile battery, center, near an international airport and air base is seen in Isfahan, Iran, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)
Burn marks surround what analysts identify as a radar system for a Russian-made S-300 missile battery, center, near an international airport and air base is seen in Isfahan, Iran, Monday, April 22, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)

Satellite photos taken Monday suggest an apparent Israeli retaliatory strike targeting Iran's central city of Isfahan hit a radar system for a Russian-made air defense battery, contradicting repeated denials by officials in Tehran of any damage in the assault.
The strike on an S-300 radar in what appears to have been a very limited strike by the Israelis would represent far more damage done than in the massive drone-and-missile attack Iran unleashed against Israel on April 13. That may be why Iranian officials up to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei have been trying to dismiss discussing what the attack actually did on Iranian soil, The Associated Press reported.
Analysts believe both Iran and Israel, regional archrivals locked in a shadow war for years, now are trying to dial back tensions following a series of escalatory attacks between them as the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip still rages and inflames the wider region. But a strike on the most advanced air defense system Iran possesses and uses to protect its nuclear sites sends a message, experts say.
“This strike shows Israel has the ability to penetrate Iran’s air defense systems,” said Nicole Grajewski, a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment's nuclear policy program who wrote a forthcoming book on Russia and Iran. “The precision of it was quite remarkable.”
The satellite images by Planet Labs PBC taken Monday morning near Isfahan's dual-use airport and air base, some 320 kilometers (200 miles) south of Tehran, showed an area nearby that served as a deployment point for the air defense system. Burn marks sit around what analysts including Chris Biggers, a consultant former government imagery analyst, previously had identified as a “flap-lid” radar system used for the S-300.
Less-detailed satellite images taken after Friday showed similar burn marks around the area, though it wasn't clear what was at the site, AP reported. Biggers said other components of the missile system appeared to have been removed from the site — even though they provide defensive cover for Iran's underground Natanz nuclear enrichment facility.
“That’s a powerful statement, given the system, the location, and how they use it,” Biggers wrote.
On Friday, air defenses opened fire and Iran grounded commercial flights across much of the country. Officials in the aftermath sought to downplay the attack, trying to describe it as just a series of small drones flying through the sky.
“What happened ... was not a strike,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian claimed in an interview with NBC News. “They were more like toys that our children play with – not drones.”
In the attack's aftermath, however, Iraqis found what appeared to be remnants of surface-to-air missiles south of Baghdad. That, coupled with a suspected Israeli strike on a radar station in Syria the same day, suggests Israeli fighter jets flew over Syria into Iraq, then fired so-called “standoff missiles” into Iran for the Isfahan attack. Small, shorter-range drones may have been launched as well — Israel has been able to launch sabotage attacks and other missions inside of Iran.
Still, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani repeated Tehran's denial Monday.
“Relevant authorities have announced that this harassment attack has caused no damage whatsoever and Iran’s defensive system has carried out their duties," Kanaani told journalists at a briefing. "Therefore, in our opinion this issue is not worthy of addressing.”
The S-300 and their years-delayed delivery to Iran show the challenge Tehran faces in getting any foreign-made advance weapon systems into the country. Russia and Iran initially struck a $800 million deal in 2007, but Moscow suspended their delivery three years later because of strong objections from the United States and Israel.
After Iran reached its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, Russia unfroze the deal and is believed to have given Iran four sets of an export variant of the S-300.
The relationship between Iran and Russia has deepened in recent years. Moscow relies heavily on Iran's bomb-carrying Shahed drones to target sites across Ukraine as part of its war on the country. Those same drones featured in Iran's attack on Israel.
Tehran meanwhile has made repeated comments over recent years about trying to obtain Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets from Russia to improve its decades-old fighter fleet. In September, a Russian-made YAK-130 combat trainer aircraft entered service in Iran. That model can be used to train pilots for the Su-35.
Russia now has the S-400, but the S-300 which has a range of up to 200 kilometers (125 miles) and the capability to track down and strike multiple targets simultaneously, remains one of the most-potent air defense weapons in the world. The batteries can be used to shoot down missiles as well as aircraft.
Iran likely needs Russian assistance to repair the damaged radar — and will seek newer weapons as well as time goes on, Grajewski said.
“Iran wants new weapons from Russia all the time – to try to show that it’s not so isolated,” she said.


2 Malaysian Navy Helicopters Collide, 10 Killed

In this photo released by Fire & Rescue Department of Malaysia, fire and rescue department inspect the crash site of two helicopter in Lumur, Perak state, Monday, April 23, 2024. (Terence Tan/Ministry of Communications and Information via AP)
In this photo released by Fire & Rescue Department of Malaysia, fire and rescue department inspect the crash site of two helicopter in Lumur, Perak state, Monday, April 23, 2024. (Terence Tan/Ministry of Communications and Information via AP)
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2 Malaysian Navy Helicopters Collide, 10 Killed

In this photo released by Fire & Rescue Department of Malaysia, fire and rescue department inspect the crash site of two helicopter in Lumur, Perak state, Monday, April 23, 2024. (Terence Tan/Ministry of Communications and Information via AP)
In this photo released by Fire & Rescue Department of Malaysia, fire and rescue department inspect the crash site of two helicopter in Lumur, Perak state, Monday, April 23, 2024. (Terence Tan/Ministry of Communications and Information via AP)

Two Malaysian navy helicopters collided in mid-air and crashed during a rehearsal for a naval parade on Tuesday, killing all 10 crew members aboard, the navy said.
The incident occurred at the Lumut naval base in the western state of Perak at 9.32 a.m. on Tuesday morning (0132 GMT), the navy said.
"All victims were confirmed dead at the scene and sent to the Lumut naval base military hospital for identification," the navy said.
A video circulating on local media showed several helicopters flying in formation, when one of the choppers' rotor clipped another before both aircraft crashed into the ground. Local police confirmed the footage was genuine.
The navy said it would carry out an investigation into the cause of the accident.

Seven crew members were aboard the AW139 maritime operation helicopter, the navy said. That aircraft is produced by AgustaWestland, which is a subsidiary of the Italian defense contractor Leonardo. Three other crew members were on a Fennec lightweight helicopter, manufactured by European multinational defense conglomerate Airbus.

Defense Minister Mohamed Khaled Nordin said the aircraft were rehearsing for a parade celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Royal Malaysian Navy, due to be held on Saturday.
Efforts were underway to verify the identities of the crew members killed, all of whom were below the age of 40, Mohamed Khaled told reporters.