Israel warns Iran it will “exact a price” for attack

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Monday, 15th April 2024

Israel has warned it will “exact a price” for Iran’s mass drone and missile attack at the weekend which tipped the Middle East one step closer to a major conflict. Iran launched a wave of 330 drones, cruise and ballistic missiles overnight on Saturday in retaliation for an alleged Israeli airstrike on its consulate in Damascus that killed two generals from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Almost all of the Iranian drones and missiles were shot down by Israel and its allies – including the UK, the US, and the air forces of other countries – raising the spectre of a conflict spreading across the region and beyond. But in an attempt to lower tensions, US president Joe Biden warned Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu the US would not join a further counter-offensive, while senior White House officials said they “don’t seek a wider war in the region” or one with Iran.

Ahead of a meeting of the Israeli war cabinet on Sunday, minister Benny Gantz, the former head of the military, vowed that the “campaign is not over” and added that Israel would build a regional coalition to counter the threat from Iran “when the time is right”. “Iran is a global problem, it is a regional challenge and it is also a danger to Israel, and yesterday, the world clearly stood together with Israel in the face of the danger,” he said. “Faced with the threat of Iran we will build a regional coalition and exact the price from Iran in the way and at the time that suits us”. His words were echoed by Israel’s defence minister Yoav Gallant who also spoke of establishing a “strategic alliance against this grave threat by Iran”. Israeli president Isaac Herzog called Tehran “an empire of evil which has its proxies, led all over the region and [with] all cells all over the world”. “We were attacked last night from four corners of the Middle East with proxies shooting at us, firing missiles and ballistic missiles, drones and cruise missiles,” he told Sky News. “This is like a real war. I mean, this is a declaration of war.” The Israeli military meanwhile said it remains on “high alert” and is still  “assessing the situation”. “Over the last few hours we approved operational plans for both offensive and defensive action,” Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, a spokesperson, said in a televised statement. Overnight on Saturday the skies above Israel, the occupied West Bank, Jordan and even parts of Iraq and Syria lit up with explosions as Israeli, American, British and even reportedly Jordanian jets scrambled to intercept the massive salvo. The Israeli military said in total Iran and its proxies fired at least 170 drones, 120 ballistic missiles and more than 30 cruise missiles towards Israel, but “99 per cent” of the projectiles were intercepted. Some ballistic missiles did reach inside Israeli territory, causing minor damage to an airbase and injuring a 10-year-old girl.

UN Security Council meets after Iran’s attack on Israel

“It’s time to step back from the brink,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the UN Security Council meeting on Sunday. Guterres said the member states have a shared responsibility to work for peace and prevent further escalation of hostilities.

Fearing a regional conflict, Russia, China, France and Germany as well as Arab states Egypt, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates urged restraint, as the UN Security Council met to discuss the events. UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres had earlier called for maximum restraint. “The Middle East is on the brink. The people of the region are confronting the real danger of a devastating full-scale conflict. Now is the time to defuse and de-escalate,” he said. “Neither the region nor the world can afford more war.” Guterres reminded member states of their obligations under the UN Charter, which prohibits the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state. He reinforced the importance of respecting the inviolability of diplomatic premises and personnel, and made reference to his condemnation of the attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus.

The Israeli ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, urged the council to impose “all possible sanctions” against Iran, and other measures. “Today the council must take action. Condemn Iran for their terror. Trigger the snapback mechanism and reimpose crippling sanctions,” he said. He also called for Iran to be designated a terrorist organisation. On a tablet computer, the Israeli official played a video he claimed showed Israel intercepting Iranian drones over Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque compound, the third-most sacred site in Islam. “Here, take a look,” he said, presenting the tablet to Amir Saeid Iravani, the Iranian ambassador to the UN, who was sitting across the horseshoe table in the Security Council chamber.

Iravani repeated Tehran’s position that it is not looking for escalation or war in the region, but was exercising its “inherent right to self-defence” in its attack on Israel. “The Security Council … failed in its duty to maintain international peace and security” after Israel’s apparent strike on an Iranian consulate in Damascus this month, Mr Iravani said. Therefore, Tehran “had no choice” but to respond, he said.

Russia earlier proposed a media statement to denounce the attack on Iran’s diplomatic premises in Damascus. The proposal was backed by China and Algeria but blocked by the US, UK and France. The Iranian envoy also stressed that Tehran has no intention of engaging in conflict with the US in the region. “We demonstrated our commitment to peace by exercising our restraint about involving the US Army in intercepting Iranian drones and missiles bound for military targets in the occupied Palestinian territories.” However, Iravani warned that should the US initiate military operations against Iran, its citizens, or its security and interests, Tehran will use its inherent right to respond proportionately.

US deputy ambassador Robert Wood said Iran’s “reckless actions” pose a threat not only to people in Israel, but also to those of other UN member states in the region, including Jordan and Iraq. He said the Security Council has an obligation not to let Iran’s actions “go unanswered”. “In the coming days, and in consultation with other member states, the United States will explore additional measures to hold Iran accountable here at the United Nations,” he said. Mr Wood said Washington is not seeking escalation but warned that if Iran or any of its proxies launch action against the US or Israel, Tehran “will be held responsible”.

G7 ‘stand ready to take further measures’

President Biden also convened the G7 on Sunday. There, G7 leaders said they “stand ready to take further measures now and in response to further destabilising initiatives” following Iran’s unprecedented attack but warned further regional escalation “must be avoided”. The G7 – made up of the US, Italy, Japan, Germany, France, Britain and Canada – also said that Iran, “with its actions, has further stepped toward the destabilisation of the region and risks provoking an uncontrollable regional escalation”. They said their nations “stand ready to take further measures now and in response to further destabilizing initiatives.”

Biden urges congressional leaders to pass aid bill

US President Joe Biden has urged congressional leaders to pass aid bill “as soon as possible”. This followed a virtual meeting Biden had with the leader of the Democratic majority in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, that of the Republican minority, Mitch McConnell, the speaker of the House, Mike Johnson and the leader of the minority Dem in the House, Hakeem Jeffries “to discuss the unprecedented attack on Iran against Israel”, according to the White House. A statement said that during the call Biden spoke “of the urgent need for the national security law to be approved as soon as possible”, which includes new aid for Ukraine, Israel and Gaza.

‘Palestinians move towards northern Gaza’ – Al Ahram

Tens of thousands of displaced Palestinians, mostly women, children and the elderly, began a long march on foot to return to their homes in Gaza City and the northern Strip, defying Israeli authorities, according to the Egyptian broadsheet Al Ahram, quoting the Palestinian agency Ma’an. The report shows pictures of a long procession of people walking with their few belongings saved from destruction. Most of them had travelled the Rashid coastal road back to Gaza as Hamas and Israel trade blame for stalled truce talks and tensions rise as Iran enters the picture. The Al-Rashid coastal road connects the south to the north of the Strip and the long procession passed Israeli checkpoints in central Gaza unhindered, according to the Ma’an news agency. Some of the displaced families in central Gaza said they were notified by telephone by someone in the Israeli army that men over 50, male children under 14 and women of all ages could return to the north of the Gaza Strip, although Israel had denied having authorised the return. The AFP agency documented the march north with numerous photos.

Russia continues to receive weapons components – Zelensky

Military aid to Kiev is limited, while Moscow continues to have access to “critical components needed to produce missiles and drones”, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said last night. “Each missile targeting Ukraine contains at least dozens of electronic components and chips supplied by companies in other countries and imported through the territory of Russia’s neighbours,” Zelensky said in his daily address to the country published on the website of the Kyiv presidency  “All this must and can be stopped, including the tolerance of terror, the ability of terrorists to look for allies around the world and Russian terrorism itself, in all its manifestations,” the Ukrainian president stressed. Zelensky added that the fact that “sanctions against Russia are still being circumvented” and that Kyiv has been waiting for months for US military help “shows that terrorist confidence has also been increasing for months.”

‘Ukraine needs help, like Israel’ – Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday condemned Iran’s drone and missile attack on Israel and said his country needed help from its allies to fend off threats from the air, just as Israel did. He again called on the US Congress to approve a vital aid package that has been blocked by political wrangling for months. Ukraine’s forces are facing new onslaughts from Russian troops in the east and daily attacks on cities and infrastructure from Russian missiles and drones. Writing on the social media platform X, Zelensky said: “Iran’s actions threaten the entire region and the world, just as Russia’s actions threaten a larger conflict, and the obvious collaboration between the two regimes in spreading terror must face a resolute and united response from the world.” Speaking later in his nightly video address, the President said the world had seen that “Israel was not alone in its defence, the threats in the sky were also destroyed by its allies. And when Ukraine says allies cannot turn a blind eye to Russian missiles and drones, it means that it is necessary to act, and act strongly,” he said. “Ukraine’s skies not protected by rhetoric.”

Family of Sydney attacker ‘devastated’

The family of the Sydney knife attacker – who killed six people in a stabbing spree at a shopping centre – described his actions as “horrific”. New South Wales Police said they had identified the attacker as 40-year-old Joel Cauchi, of Queensland, and do not think he was motivated by terrorism. Four women, aged between 20 and 55, and a man who was in his 30s died in the shopping centre and another woman, 38, later died in hospital. Twelve other people, including a nine-month-old baby, are receiving treatment in hospitals around Sydney for different injuries.

In a statement released through Queensland Police, the Cauchi family said on Sunday: “We are absolutely devastated by the traumatic events that occurred in Sydney yesterday. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims and those still undergoing treatment at this time. Joel’s actions were truly horrific, and we are still trying to comprehend what has happened. He has battled with mental health issues since he was a teenager,” adding they had “no issues with the police officer who shot our son as she was only doing her job to protect others, and we hope she is coping alright.” Assistant Commissioner Anthony Cooke said Cauchi is believed to have come to New South Wales last month and that police have spoken to his family, who are co-operating with the investigation.

French court rules in favour of nun dismissed from religious order

The Holy See has formally protested to France after a court there ruled that a former high-ranking Vatican official was liable for what the court determined to be the wrongful dismissal of a nun from a religious order. The Lorient tribunal on April 3 ruled in favour of the nun, Sabine de la Valette, known at the time as Mother Marie Ferréol. The court issued a scathing denunciation of the secretive process the Vatican used to kick her out of the order, the Dominicans of the Holy Spirit, after an internal investigation. The case is highly unusual, because it represented a secular civilian court essentially determining that the Vatican’s in-house canonical procedures grossly violated the nun’s fundamental rights. In a statement, the Vatican said it had formally protested to the French embassy that it had received no notification of any such verdict, but that the ruling nevertheless represented a “grave violation” of the right to religious freedom. The Vatican confirmed that Pope Francis had tasked Cardinal Marc Ouellet, at the time the head of the Vatican’s bishops’ office, with conducting an investigation that ended with the Holy See taking a series of canonical measures against Valette, including her 2020 expulsion after 34 years as a nun in the order.

Rationing begins as Sicily lacks water

In Sicily there is no water and rationing has begun. The reservoirs needed to supply pipes to Palermo and the province are at 50 per cent. And Amap, the company that manages the aqueduct, triggered the emergency plan and lowered the pressure in the pipes. There is fear among operators for the next tourist season. In order to reach the end of the year, Sicily must recover 180 million cubic meters of water, half of the water resources necessary for ordinary annual management, certified the Minister for Civil Protection Nello Musumeci. The Sicilian Region has sent the Civil Protection a list of 52 works to be carried out and Musumeci said they would try to find financial coverage for at least the first 10 interventions

Iran police toughen controls on women without hijab

Police in Iran announced a new crackdown today on women who ignore the country’s strict Islamic dress code that makes it compulsory for them to wear headscarves in public. “From today the police in Tehran, as in other provinces, will implement their measures against this sort of violation of the law regarding hijab,” the capital’s police chief Abbas Ali Mohammadian said on live television. Local media reported that police in the city had launched a campaign codenamed “Noor”, the Persian word for “light”, in their efforts to double down on those who break the hijab dress code. The authorities made it mandatory for women to obey the Islamic dress code shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled Iran’s shah.

Main photo: A police officer inspects the remains of a rocket booster near Arad, Israel on 14th April 2024.(Reuters, Arab News)

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