Israel launches missile strikes into Iran

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Friday, 19th April 2024.

Israeli missiles have hit a site in Iran, ABC News reported late on Thursday, citing a US official, days after Iran launched a drone strike on Israel in response to an attack at the Iranian embassy in Syria. Iran’s Fars news agency said an explosion was heard at an airport in the Iranian city of Isafahan, but the cause was not immediately known. Iran has activated its air defence system over several cities, state media reported. Several Iranian nuclear sites are located in Isfahan province, including Natanz, the centrepiece of Iran’s uranium enrichment programme. Several flights were diverted over Iranian airspace, CNN reported. Over the weekend, Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles in a retaliatory strike after a suspected Israeli strike on its embassy compound in Syria. Most of the drones and missiles were downed before reaching Israeli territory. Israel had said it was going to retaliate against Iran’s 13th April missile and drone attack.

Iran told the United Nations Security Council on Thursday that Israel “must be compelled to stop any further military adventurism against our interests” as the UN Secretary-General warned that the Middle East was in a “moment of maximum peril”. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told the Council that, “In the event of further attacks by the Israeli regime, Iran would not hesitate even for a moment in a response that would make it regret its actions.” He added no member state would have remained silent after the attack on one of its embassies – a symbol of its sovereignty. “Iran’s attack on Saturday night was necessary, we had no other option, and it was in response to the Israeli attack”.

Analysts and observers have been raising concerns about the risks of the Israel-Gaza war spreading into the rest of the region. Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah have traded frequent fire over the northern Israel border, with the Hezbollah declaring support for the Palestinians by launching attacks from Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq. Houthi militants, also backed by Iran, have been going after international commercial vessels passing through the Red Sea in recent months. The group’s leaders claim they’re targeting ships with links to Israel in response to the country’s ongoing invasion of Gaza.

US vetoes UN Security Council resolution on Palestinian statehood

The United States vetoed a widely-backed UN resolution Thursday that would have paved the way for full United Nations membership for Palestine – a goal the Palestinians have long sought and Israel has worked to prevent. The vote in the 15-member Security Council was 12 in favour, the United States against and two abstentions, from the United Kingdom and Switzerland. US allies France, Japan and South Korea supported the resolution.

US deputy ambassador Robert Wood told the Security Council that the veto “does not reflect opposition to Palestinian statehood but instead is an acknowledgment that it will only come from direct negotiations between the parties”. The United States has “been very clear consistently that premature actions in New York – even with the best intentions – will not achieve statehood for the Palestinian people,” deputy State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said. In explaining the US veto, Wood said there were “unresolved questions” on whether Palestine meets the criteria to be considered a state. He pointed to Hamas still exerting power and influence in the Gaza Strip, which is a key part of the state envisioned by the Palestinians. Wood stressed that the US commitment to a two-state solution, where Israel and Palestine live side-by-side in peace, is the only path for security for both sides and for Israel to establish relations with all its Arab neighbours, including Saudi Arabia. “The United States is committed to intensifying its engagement with the Palestinians and the rest of the region, not only to address the current crisis in Gaza, but to advance a political settlement that will create a path to Palestinian statehood and membership in the United Nations,” he said.

Vote “will not defeat our determination” – Mansour

His voice breaking at times, Palestinian UN Ambassador Riyad Mansour told the council after the vote: “The fact that this resolution did not pass will not break our will and it will not defeat our determination. We will not stop in our effort,” he said. “The state of Palestine is inevitable. It is real. Perhaps they see it as far away, but we see it as near.” Mansour reiterated the commitment to a two-state solution but asserted that Israel believes Palestine “is a permanent strategic threat”. “Israel will do its best to block the sovereignty of a Palestinian state and to make sure that the Palestinian people are exiled away from their homeland or remain under its occupation forever,” he said. He demanded of the council and diplomats crowded in the chamber: “What will the international community do? What will you do?” Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have been stalled for years, and Israel’s right-wing government is dominated by hard-liners who oppose Palestinian statehood.

Algerian UN Ambassador Amar Bendjama, the Arab representative on the council who introduced the resolution, called Palestine’s admission “a critical step toward rectifying a long-standing injustice” and said that “peace will come from Palestine’s inclusion, not from its exclusion”.

Resolution “disconnected to the reality on the ground” – Gilad Erdan

Israeli UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan called the resolution “disconnected to the reality on the ground” and warned that it “will cause only destruction for years to come and harm any chance for future dialogue”. Six months after the October 7 attack by the Hamas militant group, which controlled Gaza, and the killing of 1,200 people in “the most brutal massacre of Jews since the Holocaust,” he accused the Security Council of seeking “to reward the perpetrators of these atrocities with statehood”. Israel’s military offensive in response has killed over 32,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s health ministry, and destroyed much of the territory, which speaker after speaker denounced on Thursday. The IDF says it has killed over 13,000 terrorists in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 who were killed inside Israel on and immediately following October 7. Meanwhile, 260 IDF troops have been killed in the ground invasion of Gaza, bringing the total number of soldiers killed since October 7 to 604.

After the vote, Erdan thanked the United States and particularly President Joe Biden “for standing up for truth and morality in the face of hypocrisy and politics”. He called the Palestinian Authority – which controls the West Bank and the US wants to see take over Gaza where Hamas still has sway – “a terror supporting entity”. The Israeli UN ambassador referred to the requirements for UN membership – accepting the obligations in the UN Charter and being a “peace-loving” state. “How can you say seriously that the Palestinians are peace loving? How?” Erdan asked. “The Palestinians are paying terrorists, paying them to slaughter us. None of their leaders condemn terrorism, nor the October 7 massacre. They call Hamas their brothers.” Despite the Palestinian failure to meet the criteria for UN membership, Erdan said most council members supported it. “It’s very sad because your vote will only embolden Palestinian rejectionism ever more and make peace almost impossible,” he said.

Support at UN reflects global support for Palestinians – AP

The Associated Press says the strong support the Palestinians received reflects not only the growing number of countries recognising their statehood but almost certainly the global support for Palestinians facing a humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Gaza, now in its seventh month. The resolution would have recommended that the 193-member UN General Assembly, where there are no vetoes, approve Palestine becoming the 194th member of the United Nations. Some 140 countries have already recognised Palestine, so its admission would have been approved, likely by a much higher number of countries.

This was the second Palestinian attempt for full membership and comes as the war in Gaza has put the more than 75-year-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict at centre stage. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas first delivered the Palestinian Authority’s application for UN membership in 2011. It failed because the Palestinians didn’t get the required minimum support of nine of the Security Council’s 15 members. They went to the General Assembly and succeeded by more than a two-thirds majority in having their status raised from a UN observer to a non-member observer state in 2012. That opened the door for the Palestinian territories to join UN and other international organisations, including the International Criminal Court.

Palestinian Authority, Hamas slam US for vetoing motion

The Palestinian Authority condemned the United States for vetoing a Palestinian bid for full UN membership, calling it an “aggression” that pushes the Middle East towards an “abyss”. The US policy “represents a blatant aggression against international law and an encouragement to the pursuit of the genocidal war against our people… which pushes the region ever further to the edge of the abyss”, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s office said in a statement, which also calls the US veto “unfair, unethical and unjustified”.

Hamas also strongly condemned the US position in preventing recognition of a Palestinian state by using its veto at the UN Security Council. A statement from the Palestinian group said the Islamic movement “assures the world that our people will continue their struggle until the creation of an independent and fully sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital”.

Emergency talks on feared ICC warrants for Israeli PM, ministers

Israel is increasingly worried by the prospect of the International Criminal Court in The Hague issuing arrest warrants against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli political and military leaders for alleged breaches of international law in Gaza, Israeli television reported Thursday. According to Channel 12 news, three ministers and several government legal experts held an “emergency discussion” at the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday about how to fend off the potential warrants. The meeting was convened after Jerusalem received messages indicating that such warrants could be issued in the near future, the report said, without citing any sources. Israeli Foreign Minister Katz’s office confirmed to The Times of Israel that the meeting took place and said there were also discussions about the possibility that warrants could be issued against IDF officers. The television report said that during Tuesday’s discussion, which was attended by Katz, Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, it was decided that Israel would reach out to the court and “diplomatic figures with influence” in an effort to prevent the warrants from being issued. Jerusalem reportedly feared the arrest warrants would be sought due to the humanitarian crisis amid the fighting in the Gaza Strip, with countries that accuse Israel of breaching international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention said to be leading the effort. In February, a delegation of relatives of hostages being held by Hamas filed a war crimes complaint with the ICC against the terrorist organisation’s leaders. The accusations in the filing included kidnapping, crimes of sexual violence, torture, and other serious allegations.

Netanyahu also raised the matter in his meetings this week with Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Cameron and Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, and sought their help, the TV report said.

“Abortion is among the fundamental rights of the EU” – Macron

France defends the introduction “of the right to abortion” in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, French President Emmanuel Macron said at the end of the EU summit, responding to a question on the controversy between Italy and Spain on the right to abortion. “I think that for all women in Europe, living on our continent must mean having this right” and “being able to be free to exercise it”.

EU proposes to “get over” Brexit, at least for young people

The EU Commission has proposed opening negotiations with the United Kingdom to allow the mobility enjoyed by millions of young people aged between 18 and 30 before Brexit. The Guardian reports that to start talks on the matter, the Commission will now proceed to obtain the approval of individual EU leaders – a path that could lead to partially eliminating one of the most controversial elements of Brexit, namely the de facto block on the right to live with each other’s countries, albeit for a limited period and given specific conditions. Under the proposed deal, EU and UK citizens aged between 18 and 30 will be able to stay for up to four years in the destination country, the European Commission said in a detailed statement.

Man arrested for attempted attack on Zelensky

A man suspected of having contacts with Russian intelligence services and helping them prepare an attack against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been arrested in Poland. Polish and Ukrainian prosecutors announced that the Polish citizen, identified as Pawel K., was supposed to “collect and provide information to the military intelligence services of the Russian Federation, in particular to help the Russian special services plan a possible attack against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky”.

Jury selected in Trump’s New York hush money trial

The full 12-person jury has been seated in Donald Trump’s hush money criminal trial. The panel comprises seven men and five women. A woman was also chosen as an alternate Thursday. By the end of the day, the jury in the first criminal trial of former President Trump had been seated. Only five alternates are left to be selected today. Once Trump’s attorneys and the district attorney’s office used up their 10 peremptory strikes to remove jurors, things moved quickly. The judge rejected Trump’s challenges to remove jurors for cause because they had expressed negative opinions about Trump, telling the former president’s attorneys that not liking his persona was not enough.

Jury selection for remaining alternate spots is set to resume this morning. If jury selection wraps up quickly enough Friday, Merchan said he will hold what’s called a Sandoval hearing Friday afternoon, where they will discuss what in Trump’s legal history can be used to try to impeach him if he chooses to testify. Meanwhile, prosecutors said Trump violated his gag order seven more times, pointing to posts online and calling the situation “ridiculous”. Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records for his alleged role in a hush money scheme before the 2016 election. Trump has pleaded not guilty.

Stranded travellers in flooded Dubai airports “running out of food

Stranded passengers at Dubai’s airports have said they are “running out of food” as the United Arab Emirates struggles to recover after a freak storm dumped 18-months’ rain in just hours. At least 20 people have died in the intense weather event from earlier this week that also affected Oman. Streets were flooded, buildings were damaged and shops and business were forced to close in the Gulf states. Air travel has been hard hit, particularly at Dubai Airport.  

Voting begins in India election as Modi seeks third term

Polls have opened in India’s mammoth general election, with almost a billion eligible to vote between now and June 1. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party are expected to win the contest. Modi, 73, took office after the 2014’s election and expanded his majority five years later. India is now the fifth largest economy in the world, developing rapidly economically and also gaining influence on the global stage. Modi has achieved staying in power by making Hindu nationalism acceptable to a nation that prided itself on pluralism and secularism.

Illustration: NHK World Japan

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