English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For April 20/2024
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God
Saint John 06/60-71/:”When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, ‘Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, ‘For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father. ’Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.’He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him.”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on April 19-20/2024
You are invited to watch a film about the life of Blessed Brother Estephan Nehme, the Lebanese Maronite monk, on April 24, 25, 27
Elias Bejjani/Text & Audio: Remembering the tragic 41st Anniversary of the American Embassy explosion in Beirut on April 18, 1983
The ramifications of war—whose burden falls upon whom?/Etienne Sakr (Abu Arz)/April 19, 2024
Reports: Lebanese govt. warned of possible Israeli strike
Report: Putin warns Netanyahu against surprise war on Lebanon
Israel-Hezbollah border clashes: Latest developments
South Lebanon: Deadly Attack on a House in Aïta el-Chaab
Lebanon’s Opposition Delegation Meets With US Treasury Officials
France's Macron meets Mikati, army chief in Paris
Geagea: This is our land, let EU distribute refugees on its countries
Lebanon poised for a clean energy revolution: Don't miss Middle East Clean Energy 2024!
Mideast in 'shadow of uncertainty' due to regional conflicts, IMF's Azour says
Mikati, Macron discuss Lebanon crisis as Army chief presents military needs in Paris talks
Mikati and General Aoun meet French President Macron
General Aoun meets French and Italian Army Commanders: Formation of joint committee to study Lebanese Army needs, especially in South Lebanon
Safe zones in Syria: Lebanon and Cyprus confront the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis
Refugee crisis at sea: Syrian refugee boats from Lebanon denied entry to Cypriot waters
Sleiman Murder File Transferred to Mount Lebanon Prosecutor’s Office
Polish Airline cancels Friday flights to Tel Aviv and Beirut
Quintet’s Endeavor: No Significant Progress/Bassam Abou Zeid/This is Beirut/April 19/2024
Israel “returns its greetings” to Iran... and resistance robs Lebanon of immunity!/Ali Al-Amin/Janoubia/April 19, 2024

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 19-20/2024
Tehran plays down reported Israeli attacks, signals no further retaliation
High alert: Israel cautious after Iranian attack
Iran fires at apparent Israeli attack drones near Isfahan air base and nuclear site
Blinken says US 'not involved in any offensive operation'
Russia: We told Israel 'Iran does not want escalation'
International reactions after Israel's reported attack on Iran
Iran Issues Unprecedented Nuclear Threat in Duel With Israel
Huge blast at military base used by Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, sources say
Iran-Israel: Direct Tit-for-Tat Strikes to Die Down
Israeli response to Iranian attack: Strikes on Isfahan airbase
Iran’s military response will be ‘immediate and at a maximum level’ if Israel attacks, foreign minister says
US vetoes UN resolution: Will Palestine eventually attain the right of full UN membership?
French police detain suspect after surrounding Iranian consulate in Paris
Hamas chief Haniyeh arrives in Turkiye for talks

Titles For The Latest English LCCC  analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources on April 19-20/2024
Question: “What are the new heavens and the new earth?”/GotQuestions.org?/April 19, 2024
Israel’s Strike Was Smaller Than Expected, and So Was Iran’s Reaction/Patrick Kingsley/The New York Times/April 19, 2024
Where Turkiye figures in the Iran-Israel standoff/Sinem Cengiz/Arab News/April 20/2024
Another tit-for-tat strike on the road to catastrophe/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/April 20, 2024
Gulf states and Central Asian republics chart a path forward/Luke Coffey/Arab News/April 19/2024
Is Washington’s Brain Fog Lifting?/David Hale/This is Beirut/April 19/2024

Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on April 19-20/2024
You are invited to watch a film about the life of Blessed Brother Estephan Nehme, the Lebanese Maronite monk, on April 24, 25, 27

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Elias Bejjani/Text & Audio: Remembering the tragic 41st Anniversary of the American Embassy explosion in Beirut on April 18, 1983
Today, as we mark the 41st anniversary of the devastating bombing at the American embassy in Beirut, we do so with a mix of sorrow, sadness, and anger. This tragic event, orchestrated by the Iranian Mullahs and executed by their terrorist proxy, Hezbollah, remains a painful chapter in the history of both Lebanon and America.
The bombing took place amidst the tumultuous backdrop of Lebanon's internal strife, and on that fateful day, Hezbollah, at the behest of the Iranian regime, carried out an attack that claimed the lives of 17 Americans, 32 Lebanese, and 14 other individuals present at or near the embassy.
As we reflect on this dark chapter, it's imperative to shed light on the reprehensible actions of the Iranian regime, not only within the Middle East
, but on a global scale. Hezbollah, as the Mullahs' militant terrorist army, continues to pose a significant threat to peace and stability, particularly in Lebanon, where its influence remains pervasive.
The culpability of the Iranian regime in the 1983 bombing is indisputable, as evidenced by overwhelming proof that implicates
the Mullahs in this heinous act of terrorism. Since its inception in 1982, Hezbollah has been nurtured, funded, and directed by Tehran, serving as a tool to further its destructive agenda.
The bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut was a stark demonstration of the Iranian regime's disregard for human life and international norms. It underscores their relentless pursuit of chaos and instability in pursuit of their own interests.
It's essential to remind
our beloved people of Lebanon that Hezbollah is not a defender of their interests but a puppet of the Iranian regime, responsible for countless atrocities and crimes against humanity. The 1983 bombing was just one episode in a long history of violence perpetrated by Hezbollah in service of Iran's agenda.
Furthermore, Iran's aggressive
, hostile and terrorism actions, whether through Hezbollah or its other terrorist proxies across the region, continue to undermine peace and stability in the Middle East. Innocent civilians bear the brunt of their expansionist and sectarian ambitions.
The Iranian regime's pursuit of nuclear capabilities and its support for terrorist groups only serve to further destabilize the region and threaten global security. Until the Iranian people can freely govern themselves and the regime's reign of terror is brought to an end, true peace and stability will remain elusive.
On this solemn anniversary, we offer our prayers and condolences to the families of the American soldiers and Lebanese citizens who lost their lives on April 18, 1983, victims of senseless violence perpetrated by Hezbollah and its masters in Tehran.
*The writer is a Lebanese expatriate activist
Writer's email address
Writer's website link

The ramifications of war—whose burden falls upon whom?
Etienne Sakr (Abu Arz)/April 19, 2024
Since the so called, Hezbollah unilaterally initiated hostilities against Israel in support of Gaza, contravening the wishes of the Lebanese populace, and considering the current conflict in the south has already resulted in numerous casualties, both civilian and combatant, as well as the widespread devastation of homes and neighborhoods in southern villages, and the displacement of tens of thousands of border residents to safer regions inland, with the escalating nature of this conflict posing a threat to Lebanon's entire infrastructure and societal fabric, and because there is a real risk of a catastrophic scenario akin to that witnessed in Gaza, we implore Hezbollah to reassess its strategy and halt the senseless conflict with Israel before irreparable damage occurs, in a bid to spare Lebanon from further devastation that could obliterate what little remains of its vitality and resilience. Failing to do so, the Lebanese people will hold Hezbollah accountable, seeking justice through international legal avenues, and attributing full responsibility for this calamity. Should Hezbollah falter, it will bear the brunt of the political, social, financial, and myriad other consequences that ensue.
Lon Live Lebanon
Etienne Saqr - Abu Arz

Reports: Lebanese govt. warned of possible Israeli strike
Naharnet/April 19/2024
The Lebanese government has received warnings about “hostile intentions by Israel and its preparations to deal a swift blow to Hezbollah in response to the group’s latest operations,” Arab diplomatic sources in Beirut said. In remarks to the al-Anbaa news portal of the Progressive Socialist Party, the sources did not rule out an unprecedented escalation of Israel’s raids and military operations. Al-Binaa newspaper for its part said the Lebanese state has received diplomatic messages carrying warnings that “Israel will carry out a broad military strike against Hezbollah and Lebanon.”However, in remarks to the same daily, political sources from the Hezbollah-led camp described the warnings as “part of the psychological warfare against Lebanon.”“Any Israeli aggression will be a major and historic folly by the enemy that will cost it a hefty price,” the sources added, stressing that Hezbollah will continue its operations in the south “as long as the Israeli aggression continues against Gaza.” “The qualitative operations carried out by the resistance over the past few days, especially the painful Arab al-Aramsha strike, are a small sample of what the enemy should expect if it commits any foolishness or expansion of its aggression against Lebanon,” the sources added.

Report: Putin warns Netanyahu against surprise war on Lebanon

Naharnet/April 19/2024
Contacts are ongoing with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to prevent him from executing his threat to launch a broad war on Lebanon, a diplomatic source said. “Netanyahu has told the leaders of world powers, most notably the U.S., Russia and France, that he wants to discipline Hezbollah,” the source added, in remarks to the Nidaa al-Watan newspaper. “Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned Netanyahu against launching a surprise war on Lebanon, because its consequences will be disastrous for the two countries and because the drones and missile that took hours to reach Israel from Iran will arrive in a few minutes should war erupt with Lebanon,” the source said. “Russia is continuing its efforts to prevent a deterioration and it has advised Lebanon and Hezbollah that Hezbollah should not engage in any Iranian responses against Israel should there be responses and counter-responses,” the source added.

Israel-Hezbollah border clashes: Latest developments

Naharnet/April 19/2024
Hezbollah targeted Friday a group of soldiers near the al-Raheb post in northern Israel, while Israeli warplanes raided the southern border town of Aita al-Shaab. Hezbollah on Thursday carried out 11 attacks on northern Israel and the occupied Shebaa Farms and Kfarshouba hills, as cross-border strikes intensified between Israel and Hezbollah. Fears increased of a regional escalation Friday after Iranian media reported explosions heard near the city of Isfahan and U.S. media quoted officials saying Israel had carried out retaliatory strikes on its arch-rival. Tensions on the Lebanese border also spiked following an attack by the Iran-backed group that wounded 14 Israeli soldiers. Hezbollah's attacks in recent days included an increased use of explosive drones while Israel has been increasingly striking deeper into Lebanon and targeting the group's commanders. The violence has killed at least 370 people in Lebanon, mostly Hezbollah fighters but also at least 70 civilians, according to an AFP tally. The Israeli military says 10 soldiers and eight civilians have been killed near the northern border.

South Lebanon: Deadly Attack on a House in Aïta el-Chaab

This Is Beirut/April 19/2024
Mohamad Hassan, son of Abdel Mohsen Sayyed Sadreddine Fadlallah, a cleric from Aïnata, was killed on Friday in an Israeli raid on the village of Aïta el-Chaab in southern Lebanon. Friday morning began more or less quietly in southern Lebanon, with intermittent exchanges of artillery fire between Hezbollah and the Israeli army. Tensions between Israel and Hezbollah continued at the Lebanese southern border on Friday. Israeli shelling and bombardments targeted a house in Aita al-Shaab and the vicinity of Hula. Hezbollah claimed responsibility for an attack on a gathering of Israeli soldiers in Al-Raheb position.

Lebanon’s Opposition Delegation Meets With US Treasury Officials
This Is Beirut/April 19/2024
The delegation of opposition MPs continued its tour in Washington, D.C., presenting the opposition’s standpoint to American officials regarding the situation in Lebanon. MPs Michel Moawad, Waddah Sadek, Georges Okais, Marc Daou and Nadim Gemayel presented a unified roadmap for Lebanon’s future. The delegation began with a series of crucial meetings in Congress, engaging with the Lebanese-American Friendship Caucus, which now includes 36 MPs. In addition, they met with several Congress members in the foreign affairs and finance committees. Addressing the economic front, the delegation also met with officials of the Middle East and Lebanon file at the US Treasury Department to discuss essential reform measures to complete a program with the IMF and to save the Lebanese financial and economic situation. With Lebanon grappling with financial turmoil exacerbated by government inaction, the focus was on combating illicit financial activities and defending the legitimate private sector. On another note, the delegation responded to an invitation from three think tanks: the Middle East Foundation, the Wilson Center and the American Task Force on Lebanon (ATFL). A meeting was also held with the Lebanese Club at the World Bank, the Monetary Fund and Lebanese academics in Washington. It is important to note that the delegation is scheduled to hold meetings with American officials at the State Department, the White House and with representatives of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Additionally. They will engage with Arab ambassadors in Washington and meet with more US Congress members during the weekend.

France's Macron meets Mikati, army chief in Paris
Agence France Presse/April 19/2024
France President Emmanuel Macron met Friday with Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati in Paris, as fears increased of a regional escalation in the Gaza war. Army chief Joseph Aoun will also join the meeting. The Paris talks come hours after reports that Israel had carried out revenge strikes on Iran. Lebanon is grappling with a deep economic and political crisis. That has been compounded by near-daily cross-border fire between Hezbollah and neighboring Israel ever since the Gaza war erupted following the October 7 attack on Israel. Hezbollah on Thursday said two of its fighters had been killed as Israel appeared to intensify strikes on south Lebanon following an attack by the Iran-backed group that wounded 14 Israeli soldiers. Fears of a regional conflict have spiked in recent days after Tehran launched its first ever direct military attack on Israel late Saturday in retaliation for an April 1 air strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus widely blamed on Israel. Lebanon has been without a president for more than a year after ex-head of state Michel Aoun's mandate expired, with its feuding factions repeatedly failing in parliament to elect a new leader. The multi-confessional former French colony is also in the grips of an unprecedented economic crisis. Mikati has been prime minister since 2021 but leads a caretaker government with limited powers. Joseph Aoun, no relation to the country's former president, has good relations with all sides in the country and is sometimes put forward as someone who could lead it out of political deadlock. Macron has visited the country twice in recent years in a bid to help bring it out of crisis, but then in 2023 assigned the task to former foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Geagea: This is our land, let EU distribute refugees on its countries
Naharnet/April 19/2024
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on Friday escalated his rhetoric regarding Lebanon’s Syrian refugee crisis, in the wake of the recent murder of LF official Pascal Sleiman at the hands of a Syrian gang. “This land is our land and if the European Union considers the Syrian refugee file to be a humanitarian issue, then let it distribute them accordingly on all European countries,” Geagea said at a press conference in Maarab. “What are the measures that the Free Patriotic Movement has taken since 2011 regarding the Syrian refugees issue? What did the president do as of 2016 with a ministerial and parliamentary majority? Deception is the nature of the FPM and before it accuses us of anything, let it tell us what it has done in this file,” Geagea added. “Some are voicing the excuse that the number of municipal policemen is not enough to address the Syrian refugee problem, but we are ready to offer volunteers to work on this file in all regions, and from now on we won’t remain silent over any shortcomings or negligence,” the LF leader went on to say. Responding to caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi’s remarks about rejecting so-called “self-security,” Geagea said: “Mr. Minister, we are all against self-security, but you must do your job, and the first matter that should be addressed is resolving the case of the refugees.”“The state’s inaction encourages the people to resort to self-security,” Geagea warned. “We have a sovereign decision and we must take decisions that protect our country and state, instead of waiting for what the EU of the international community want,” he said, warning that the refugee crisis has become “an existential danger that is threatening our country.”

Lebanon poised for a clean energy revolution: Don't miss Middle East Clean Energy 2024!
Naharnet/April 19/2024
Lebanon is at a crossroads. With a growing demand for clean energy solutions and a booming clean energy sector, the country is primed to lead the way in a sustainable future. At the heart of this movement is the Middle East Clean Energy exhibition & conference, returning for its much-anticipated 3rd edition on May 8th to 10th, 2024, in Beirut. This landmark event, established as Lebanon's first and only Clean and Renewable Energy Trade Fair, offers a unique platform for businesses, innovators, and industry leaders to come together, showcase their expertise, and forge a path toward a greener tomorrow.
A Legacy of Success Breeds Excitement for 2024 -
The past two editions of Middle East Clean Energy have been resounding successes. Local and international exhibitors from Lebanon, China, India, and Turkey filled the halls, showcasing cutting-edge technologies across the clean energy spectrum. From solar panels and wind turbines to electric vehicles and smart building solutions, the event provided a comprehensive look at the future of clean energy.
But the impact went far beyond displays. Hundreds of professional visitors, a significant portion holding high-level decision-making positions, participated in the event, leading to millions of dollars in trade deals. This vibrant atmosphere of collaboration and commerce is precisely what sets Middle East Clean Energy apart.
- A Look Ahead: Innovation, Collaboration, and Sustainable Solutions -
The 2024 edition promises to be even bigger and better. Expect an even wider range of exhibitors showcasing the latest advancements in solar technologies, wind energy, electric mobility, renewable energy storage, smart building technologies, and water management – all crucial elements in tackling climate change. The conference program continues to be a highlight. Ministers, executives, government officials, and representatives from various sectors will convene to discuss the key challenges and trends shaping the clean energy market. Over 42 industry experts took the stage in previous editions, sparking insightful dialogue and paving the way for concrete steps towards a regional energy transition. This year promises an even more distinguished roster of speakers, offering invaluable insights to attendees.
Who Should Attend? -
Middle East Clean Energy is a must-attend event for anyone with a stake in the future of clean energy. Whether you're a business owner looking to connect with potential partners, an engineer seeking inspiration for your next project, or a policymaker shaping the energy landscape, this event offers something for everyone. Approximately half of attendees hold leadership positions, making it an ideal platform to network with key decision-makers. Business owners, engineers, directors from various sectors, and even freelancers will find invaluable connections and knowledge at the event.
The Time to Act is Now
Lebanon's clean energy revolution is gaining momentum, and Middle East Clean Energy 2024 is your chance to be a part of it. Don't miss this opportunity to learn, network, and contribute to a sustainable future. Reserve your spot today and join us at the Phoenicia Beirut on May 8th, 9th, and 10th, 2024 for three days of innovation, collaboration, and groundbreaking clean energy solutions!

Mideast in 'shadow of uncertainty' due to regional conflicts, IMF's Azour says
Agence France Presse/April 19/2024
Economies in the Middle East and North Africa face a "shadow of uncertainty" from ongoing tensions in the region, a senior IMF official told AFP on Thursday. "We are in a context where the overall outlook is cast into shadows," the International Monetary Fund's director for the Middle East and Central Asia department, Jihad Azour, said in an interview in Washington. "The shadow of uncertainty on the geopolitical side is an important one," added Azour, a recent candidate to be the next Lebanese president. In the face of the ongoing conflicts in Gaza and Sudan, and a recent cut to oil supplies by Gulf countries, the IMF has pared back its growth outlook for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region once again. The Fund now expects growth in MENA of 2.7 percent this year -- 0.2 percentage points below its January forecast -- before picking up again next year, the IMF said in its regional economic outlook report published Thursday.
Conflict risk
The risks to growth in the MENA region remain heightened, the IMF said, pointing to the danger of greater regional spillovers from the ongoing Israel-Gaza war. The conflict started after Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people in southern Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures. The militants also took about 250 hostages. Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed at least 33,970 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry, and caused severe economic damage in both Gaza and the West Bank. "We have concerns about the immediate and lasting impact of conflict," Azour said. The IMF report said economic activity in Gaza has "come to a standstill" and estimates economic output in the West Bank and Gaza contracted by six percent last year. The report excludes economic projections for the West Bank and Gaza for the next five years, "on account of the unusually high degree of uncertainty," the IMF said. The Fund cannot lend to the West Bank and Gaza because it is not an IMF member country. However, it has provided the Palestinian Authority and the central bank with technical assistance during the current conflict, Azour said. "When we move into the phase of reconstruction, we will be part of the international community support to the region," he added. Azour also discussed the situation in Sudan, where thousands have been killed in a civil war that has also devastated the economy, causing it to contract by almost 20 percent last year, according to the IMF. "The country is barely functioning, institutions have been dismantled," he said. "And for an economy, for a country like Sudan, with all this potential, it's important to very quickly the stop the bleeding and move to a phase of reconstruction," he added.
Egyptian economy
The Egyptian economy has been particularly badly hit by the recent Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping, which caused trade through the Egypt-run Suez Canal to more than halve -- depriving the country of a key source of foreign exchange. Egypt reached agreement last month to increase an existing IMF loan package from $3 billion to $8 billion, after its central bank hiked interest rates and allowed the pound to plunge by nearly 40 percent. A key pillar of the current IMF program is the privatization of Egypt's state-owned enterprises, many of which are owned by or linked to the military. "This is a priority for Egypt," Azour told AFP. "Because Egypt needs to have a growing private sector, and to give space for the private sector to create more jobs." "We have an opportunity to re-engineer the role of the state, to give the state more responsibility as an enabler, and less as a competitor," he said

Mikati, Macron discuss Lebanon crisis as Army chief presents military needs in Paris talks

NAJIA HOUSSARI/Arab News/April 19, 2024
BEIRUT: Israel continued its raids on Hezbollah positions on Friday amid reports of dawn explosions in Iran, as Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati held talks with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace. Lebanese Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun and the Chief of Staff of the French Armed Forces Gen. Thierry Burkhard also attended the extended meeting. According to reports, Aoun presented a study to the French military commander, as well as the head of the Italian armed forces, about the needs of the Lebanese Army, its current situation, challenges, and logistical and material requirements.
Hezbollah forces based in Lebanon have clashed with the Israeli army in recent weeks, marking their most serious hostilities since a war between them in 2006.
The discussion focused on “how to assist in enhancing the situation of the Lebanese army in the south, provided that a committee is formed to study these needs and how to secure the necessary support and funding.”The international community insists on Lebanon’s compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1701, while Lebanon, in return, demands assistance for its military to enable it to deploy more of its forces in the south to implement the resolution. Aoun described his separate meetings with his French and Italian counterparts as “positive.”Israeli warplanes carried out an attack on a house in the town of Aita Al-Shaab with two air-to-ground missiles. The raid resulted in the killing of Mohammed Hassan Abdel Mohsen Fadlallah, 54, who worked at the Islamic Education Foundation (Al-Mahdi Schools), an educational institution affiliated with Hezbollah. Israeli Army spokesman Avichay Adraee said on X that “reconnaissance soldiers from Battalion 869 spotted saboteurs inside a military building belonging to the Hezbollah terrorist organization in the Aita Al-Shaab area. An airstrike targeted the building and the saboteurs who were stationed there.”Hezbollah announced a few hours later the targeting of a gathering of Israeli soldiers in the vicinity of the Al-Raheb site with artillery shells.Israeli forces fired machine guns at one of the Wazzani areas while Israeli artillery shelled the outskirts of the town of Rmeish. The total number of Hezbollah deaths has now reached 280 since the beginning of the war. Russia Today news agency — citing Israel’s Yneti website — claimed it had the names of a number of high-ranking Hezbollah members who were killed in Israeli airstrikes in Lebanon since the start of the clashes on the southern front on Oct. 8. The report stated that the Israeli Army often carries out attacks against vehicles, “demonstrating its deep knowledge of Hezbollah's organizational structure and role distribution in the field.”According to the report, 14 senior Hezbollah figures have been killed in the attacks. They include Ismail Youssef Baz, the commander of the coastal sector of Hezbollah; Mohammed Hussein Mustafa Shahhouri, the commander of the rocket and missile unit in the western sector of the Radwan Force; Ali Ahmed Hussein, the commander of the Hajir region of the Radwan Force; Ali Abdul Hassan Naeem, deputy commander of the rocket and missile unit in Hezbollah; and Ali Mohammed Al-Debs, a central commander in the Radwan Force. The report also published the following names: Hassan Mahmoud Saleh, commander of the attack in the Jabal Douf area; Mohammed Alawiyah, commander of Hezbollah’s Maroun Al-Ras area; Hassan Hussein Salama, a commander in Hezbollah’s Nasser unit; Wissam Al-Taweel, a commander in the Radwan Force; Ali Hussein Burji, commander of the southern Lebanon region of Hezbollah’s air unit; Hussein Yazbek, local commander of Hezbollah in Naqoura; Abbas Mohammed Raad, a leader in the Radwan Force and son of the head of the Hezbollah parliamentary bloc; Khalil Jawad Shehimi, a leader in the Radwan Force; and Ali Mohammed Hadraj, commander the Palestine branch of the Quds Force in the Tyre area. Hezbollah usually mourns its dead without acknowledging their political or military roles within the organization.

Mikati and General Aoun meet French President Macron

LBCI/April 19/2024
During the meeting that brought together French President Emmanuel Macron, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, and Army Commander General Joseph Aoun, the latter briefed President Macron on the status of the Army and the challenges it faces amid the political, security, and social crises, as well as the ongoing war in the south. Macron assured General Aoun of France's continued support for the Lebanese Army through all available means to enable it to fulfill its duties across Lebanon, including in the south..

General Aoun meets French and Italian Army Commanders: Formation of joint committee to study Lebanese Army needs, especially in South Lebanon

LBCI/April 19/2024
LBCI's sources reported that a meeting between Army Commander General Joseph Aoun in Paris with the commanders of the French and Italian armies took place and was described as positive. The meeting served as a continuation of the Rome meeting where General Aoun presented a study on the logistical and material needs of the Lebanese Army. During the meeting, the French and Italian army commanders reviewed the Lebanese proposal and provided some clarifications. According to information obtained by LBCI, discussions will focus on an action plan to assist the Lebanese Army, particularly in terms of helping it strengthen its presence in the south. A joint committee will be formed between Italy, France, and Lebanon, along with other countries, to study these needs and the frameworks for securing them. This will be preceded by a political decision to ceasefire in the south, with France and Italy taking the lead on this matter.

Safe zones in Syria: Lebanon and Cyprus confront the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis

LBCI/April 19/2024
Lebanon and Cyprus are facing ongoing challenges posed by the influx of Syrian refugees, with the situation evolving over the years from security and political motivations to primarily economic reasons. The waves of refugees continue, facilitated by porous borders and the proliferation of illegal crossings. While some settle in Lebanese camps, others opt for perilous journeys aboard illegal boats bound for destinations like Cyprus. This mounting burden of displacement affects both Lebanon and Cyprus. In recent communications, Cyprus urged Lebanon to include safe zones within Syria in the documentation presented at the upcoming Brussels conference on Syrian displacement.
What are the "safe zones" in Syria?
On the sidelines of international conferences and meetings of Lebanese officials with heads of international organizations and heads of European countries, according to governmental sources speaking to LBCI, areas considered safe extend from the Syrian coast to Homs, Hama, the outskirts of Aleppo, and Damascus, all under Syrian army control and relatively free from conflict. There have been proposals, including from Lebanon, to relocate opponents of the Syrian regime to areas not under government control, such as those within Turkish-controlled territories in Idlib and eastern Aleppo. Syrians not displaced for political reasons could potentially return to areas controlled by the Syrian regime. Nevertheless, observers question the adequacy of designating areas as "safe," emphasizing the need not only to halt hostilities but also to ensure the provision of incentives and infrastructure for sustainable living in war-ravaged towns and villages. European nations have begun to press the European Union to reconsider the classification of safe areas in Syria, a move that could facilitate the return of displaced individuals. As the Brussels conference on Syrian displacement approaches in a month and a half, Lebanon's agenda will include the issue of safe zones within Syria, alongside other legal aspects, according to ministerial sources.

Refugee crisis at sea: Syrian refugee boats from Lebanon denied entry to Cypriot waters

LBCI/April 19/2024
The perilous journeys of death have resumed between the shores of Tripoli and Cyprus, but this time, Cypriot authorities have prevented refugee boats from Lebanon from entering their territorial waters for the first time. Here is the security narrative obtained by LBCI detailing what happened on Wednesday. Lebanon's navy received information indicating that Cypriot forces were surrounding three boats carrying refugees in the shared waters between the two countries, intending to block their entry into Cypriot territorial waters based on maritime law. Consequently, Lebanese army boats escorted the three vessels back to the port of Tripoli just as they had approached the Lebanese shore. According to sources from the General Directorate of General Security, the boats carried 224 individuals of different nationalities, including 219 Syrians, one Palestinian refugee in Lebanon, one Palestinian refugee in Syria, as well as a Sudanese and two Bangladeshis. Upon arrival at the port of Tripoli, the Lebanese Army and General Security took charge of guarding these individuals. Through the efforts of General Director Major General Elias Al-Baysari, they received medical and food assistance from the Lebanese Red Cross and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). A team from UNHCR also attended the port, verifying the identification documents of the returnees. It was revealed that out of the 224 individuals, 117 were registered with UNHCR and were subsequently released.
Forty-three individuals, including 16 minors, were referred to the General Security's investigation and procedures department. The remaining 64 individuals entered Lebanon clandestinely. Hence, based on a decision by the Supreme Defense Council issued in 2019, the Lebanese General Security transferred them to the northern border with Syria and handed them over to Syrian authorities. Hours before these three boats, security sources following LBCI reported that a fourth boat had returned from the shared waters to the port of Tripoli without the army's knowledge. It was carrying approximately 300 people, with the Army subsequently detaining about 50 of them.Therefore, the situation of Syrian refugees in Lebanon is escalating from danger to greater peril. While UNHCR has provided Lebanon with data on registered refugees, totaling 1,482,000 individuals, according to sources from the General Directorate of General Security, the data received in January 2024 is disorganized. It lacks information on the refugees' entry into Lebanon, the date of their asylum application, or even the date of their acceptance by the UNHCR. These are crucial pieces of information needed for Lebanon to address this crisis effectively.

Sleiman Murder File Transferred to Mount Lebanon Prosecutor’s Office

This Is Beirut/April 19/2024
Public Prosecutor Jamal Hajjar handed over to the Mount Lebanon Court of Appeal on Friday the file on the preliminary investigation carried out by the Army into the murder of Pascal Sleiman, coordinator of the Lebanese Forces in Jbeil, who was abducted and killed during an alleged car theft. Six suspects of Syrian nationality were also referred to the public prosecutor, including the four alleged murderers. Two other Syrians suspected of involvement in the murder have yet to be arrested. The Lebanese security services are still waiting for the competent Syrian authorities to arrest them and hand them over. Five individuals, including three Lebanese, are supposed to be handed over by Damascus to the Lebanese services.

Polish Airline cancels Friday flights to Tel Aviv and Beirut

Reuters/April 19/2024
Polish national airline LOT canceled flights on Friday to Tel Aviv and Beirut due to the unstable situation in the region, a spokesperson was quoted as saying by state news agency PAP. “Today’s flight 151/152 to Israel from Warsaw and to Beirut 143/144 have been cancelled,” Krzysztof Moczulski told PAP. He said decisions about future flights would be made on an ongoing basis.

Quintet’s Endeavor: No Significant Progress

Bassam Abou Zeid/This is Beirut/April 19/2024
In their recent tour of Lebanese leaders, the ambassadors of the Quintet Committee, including France, the US, Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, made no significant progress in breaking the deadlocked presidential election. However, the messages delivered by some were crystal clear.
Saudi Ambassador Walid Bukhari did not participate in the meeting with Marada Party leader Sleiman Frangieh, and failed to issue any official statement regarding his absence. According to leaked information, the reason given for his non-attendance was a health condition, a familiar pretext in political maneuvering. This is often used both to sidestep potential embarrassment and, most importantly, to convey a message through deliberate non-attendance or participation. According to sources tracking the Quintet’s movement, the Saudi ambassador was present at Tuesday’s meetings but abstained from attending those held on Wednesday involving Frangieh. However, he participated in Thursday’s encounter with the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) leader, Gebran Bassil. This sequence of events suggests there is no rift between the Kingdom and Bassil. Furthermore, the Saudi ambassador’s absence from the meeting with Hezbollah’s Loyalty to the ‘Resistance’ parliamentary bloc further confirmed that his selective absences carried a political message. The Saudi message to Frangieh indicates that the Kingdom does not perceive him as possessing the qualities they seek in the future president. As for Hezbollah, the message denotes that Saudi Arabia’s stance towards the party remains unchanged despite a recent Saudi-Iranian rapprochement. Furthermore, the participation of US Ambassador Lisa Johnson in the meeting with Frangieh indicated American interest in his statements before the Quintet ambassadors. Frangieh had to answer a series of questions on several Lebanese matters that were of significance for them, particularly regarding his relationship with Hezbollah. The Marada leader responded with his customary frankness, reaffirming his commitment to this relationship, the weaponry of the party and its role, which he describes as a resistance force. According to these sources, the US ambassador did not like Frangieh’s words, although she did not express any dissent or objection during the meeting, assuming the role of a listener instead. It was anticipated that the US ambassador would abstain from participating in the meeting with the Hezbollah bloc, considering its classification as a terrorist organization by her country. However, she was made aware that Hezbollah would not facilitate the electoral process, as it is steadfast in its support for Frangieh and will not abandon him, even in the event of potential dialogue. Additionally, the House Speaker will not call for a new electoral session until a presidential deal is reached outside Parliament. Hence, the invitation to a session would be nothing more than a theatrical ceremony, “baptizing” a new consensus at the expense of the Lebanese people.

Israel “returns its greetings” to Iran... and resistance robs Lebanon of immunity!

Ali Al-Amin/Janoubia/April 19, 2024 (Google translation from Arabic)
After "returning the greeting" of Israel's aggression "with a better one" against Iran, the mask of resistance is officially dropped from Tehran and all its false slogans trading on the Palestinian issue, turning into a "meek lamb" that will no longer fight any war, at least directly against Israel, America, or the West in general. But it will not give up the “occupation” battles in the south, which have turned into “preoccupation” with the Lebanese, and devote itself to distributing the spoils and gains with the “enemy” and the “Great Satan”!
The Israeli war government has ended its response to Iran, and is preparing to storm Rafah, and perhaps to escalate the confrontation with Hezbollah. Targeting Isfahan was not an Israeli act, according to the official Iranian comment, as Tehran considered that the drones were launched from inside Iran and did not come from outside it, which means that the file of responses has been closed between the two countries, and both of them are confident that they have accomplished what they owed to the other, and achieved what they wanted. Of restoring his moral image, and all of this was promised by American fingers, which spared both sides the burden of confrontation, which neither Tehran nor Washington wanted, and Benjamin Netanyahu could be persuaded to avoid it, but at a cost. As for the opposite, it is storming Rafah first, as Israel is no longer in the position of being restricted by the West, from completing the implementation of the program of destruction and annihilation all the way to Rafah, while Tehran has proven in practice that Gaza, and even Palestine as a whole, and Jerusalem in its majesty, is not equal in the standard of confrontation with Israel, what targeting is equal to. Its consulate in Damascus, as the leader of the resistance axis, will not effectively prevent the continuation of the genocide in Gaza, nor will he hinder Israel’s actions in Gaza, nor will he, in his calculations, push the “Quds Force” to rescue Al-Aqsa Mosque from the clutches of occupation or Judaization. The Iranian leadership, after closing the file on its response to Israel, by acquitting it of targeting a military base in Isfahan this morning (Friday), thus announces its dissociation from Iran, from any suspicion of direct or potential involvement, in the face of the isolation of the “Hamas movement” or its arms in the region, and thus It declares that the blood of the Palestinians or the Lebanese and their countries does not rise in importance to the level of Iranian blood. The tens of thousands of victims in Palestine are enough to reveal how “smooth” and “soft” the ideology adopted by the Iranian regime is, when it comes to Israel and America, and “tough” And “decisive” when the task is to confront the Syrian revolution or the Iraqi protests, or any objection made by an Arab country to its policies. Indeed, the Iranian scene is exposed to the fact that liberating Jerusalem or fighting the “Great Satan” are slogans and nothing more. They were not Its result is to contribute to the tyranny of the Arab countries, and to contribute to the destruction of entities and to invest in societal rifts, making Gaza, Lebanon and Syria, and behind them Iraq and Yemen, ruined countries and becoming more destructive, for no other reason than to legitimize Iranian influence in them, and to reassure Israel that these fractured countries or entities The destroyer is a security instrument for Israel's future for many years. Lebanon does not need much, for the resistance to complete the elimination of all remaining immunity, and it is the best gift given and offered to Israel, in the name of liberating Jerusalem at times, and in the name of concern and support today.

Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 19-20/2024
Tehran plays down reported Israeli attacks, signals no further retaliation
AGENCIES/April 19, 2024
DUBAI/JERUSALEM: Explosions echoed over an Iranian city on Friday in what sources described as an Israeli attack, but Tehran played down the incident and indicated it had no plans for retaliation — a response that appeared gauged toward averting region-wide war. The limited scale of the attack and Iran’s muted response both appeared to signal a successful effort by diplomats who have been working round the clock to avert all-out war since an Iranian drone and missile attack on Israel last Saturday. Iranian media and officials described a small number of explosions, which they said resulted from Iran’s air defenses hitting three drones over the city of Isfahan. Notably, they referred to the incident as an attack by “infiltrators,” rather than by Israel, obviating the need for retaliation. An Iranian official said there were no plans to respond against Israel for the incident. “The foreign source of the incident has not been confirmed. We have not received any external attack, and the discussion leans more toward infiltration than attack,” the official said. Israel said nothing about the incident. It had said for days it was planning to retaliate against Iran for Saturday’s strikes, the first ever direct attack on Israel by Iran in decades of shadow war waged by proxies which has escalated throughout the Middle East through six months of battle in Gaza. The United States received advance notice of Israel’s reported strike on Iran but did not endorse the operation or play any part in its execution, US media quoted officials as saying.
NBC and CNN, citing sources familiar with the matter and a US official, respectively, said Israel had provided Washington with pre-notification of the strike. Various networks cited officials confirming a strike had taken place inside Iran, with CNN quoting one official as stating the target was not a nuclear facility. The two longstanding foes had been heading toward direct confrontation since a presumed Israeli airstrike on April 1 that destroyed a building in Iran’s embassy compound in Damascus and killed several Iranian officers including a top general. Iran’s response, with a direct attack on Israel, was unprecedented but caused no deaths and only minor damage because Israel and its allies shot down hundreds of missiles and drones. Allies including the United States had since been pressing hard to ensure any further retaliation would be calibrated not to provoke a spiral of hostilities. The British and German foreign ministers visited Jerusalem this week, and Western countries tightened sanctions on Iran to mollify Israel. In a sign of pressure within Israel’s hard-right government for a stronger response, Itamar Ben Gvir, the far-right national security minister tweeted a single word after Friday’s strikes: “Feeble!.”Countries around the world called on Friday for both sides to avert further escalation. “It is absolutely necessary that the region remains stable and that all sides restrain from further action,” EU Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said. Similar calls came from Beijing and from Arab states in the region. In financial markets, global shares eased, oil prices surged and US bond yields fell as traders worried about the risks.
Within Iran, news reports on Friday’s incident made no mention of Israel, and state television carried analysts and pundits who appeared dismissive about the scale. An analyst told state TV that mini drones flown by “infiltrators from inside Iran” had been shot down by air defenses in Isfahan. Shortly after midnight, “three drones were observed in the sky over Isfahan. The air defense system became active and destroyed these drones in the sky,” Iranian state TV said. Senior army commander Siavosh Mihandoust was quoted by state TV as saying air defense systems had targeted a “suspicious object.” Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi had warned Israel before Friday’s strike that Tehran would deliver a “severe response” to any attack on its territory. 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.”By morning, Iran had reopened airports and airspace that were shut during the strikes. Still, there was alarm over security in Israel and elsewhere. The US Embassy in Jerusalem restricted US government employees from travel outside Jerusalem, greater Tel Aviv and Beersheba “out of an abundance of caution.”In a statement, the embassy warned US citizens of a “continued need for caution and increased personal security awareness as security incidents often take place without warning.” Israel’s assault on Gaza began after Hamas Islamists attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200, according to Israeli tallies. Israel’s military offensive has killed about 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the Gazan health ministry. Iran-backed groups have declared support for Palestinians, carrying out attacks from Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq, raising fears the Gaza conflict could grow into a wider regional war.

High alert: Israel cautious after Iranian attack
LBCI/April 19/2024
Despite slim prospects of an Iranian response to Israel's Friday attack on Iran, Israel has kept its air force bases on high alert and urged its diplomats abroad to remain in a state of emergency and readiness for a possible Iranian response through its proxies. The War Cabinet has continued its meetings since the attack, evaluating the strike and its potential ramifications with the participation of heads of security agencies. According to Israel, the strike was aimed at sending a message to the Iranians that Tel Aviv can reach them at any time it chooses. While Israelis denied Iranian reports claiming no significant damage occurred, Israeli security officials considered these reports as confirmation of Iran's intention not to retaliate. Israelis dismissed Washington's assertion of not being informed about the timing of the attack, with Israeli officials stating that Defense Minister Yoav Gallant informed his American counterpart, Lloyd Austin, of the timing and scale of the strike during their conversation, confirming that it would not drag the region into a regional war. Gallant preceded the strike by briefing air force officers at the Tel Nof airbase, finalizing preparations for the attack, and discussing with them the tasks assigned to them to carry out missions at distances of up to 1,500 kilometers. Israeli officials held a virtual meeting on Friday with American officials to assess the situation after Iran's attack, and various Israeli proposals were addressed to ensure the tightening of economic sanctions on Iran. Tel Aviv considers these sanctions to have stronger results and consequences than any military action. Israeli security and military authorities highlighted that Tel Aviv's haste in responding to Iran is not only to restore its deterrence but also to return to its combat priorities in Gaza. In the virtual meeting on Friday, the parties discussed Israeli plans to invade Rafah and ensure the security of civilians amid the green light obtained by Tel Aviv from Washington to carry out the operation after ensuring the protection of vulnerable Palestinians who continue to be subjected to daily Israeli airstrikes, which continue to claim the lives of civilians, including women and children.

Iran fires at apparent Israeli attack drones near Isfahan air base and nuclear site
Agence France Presse/April 19/2024
Explosions rocked Iran's central Isfahan province on Friday, according to state media, while U.S. officials told American news outlets that Israel carried out a retaliatory strike on the Islamic republic. The attack comes less than a week after Tehran launched a barrage of more than 300 drones and missiles in its first-ever direct assault on Israel's soil. That unprecedented onslaught was itself a reprisal for an earlier strike in Syria widely blamed on Israel. The escalating tit-for-tat between the arch-rivals has prompted global powers to urge caution and appeal on both sides to not allow frictions underlying the war in Gaza to unfurl into a wider conflict across the Middle East. Here is what we know so far about the reported strike inside Iran:
What was hit?
Early Friday, Iran's Fars news agency said "three explosions" were heard near the Shekari army airbase in the northwest of Isfahan province. Iran's space agency spokesman Hossein Dalirian said several drones had been shot down and there had been "no missile attack for now".An unnamed U.S. official told CNN the target of the Israeli strike inside Iran was not nuclear. Iran's Tasnim news agency said the "nuclear facilities in Isfahan province are completely secure". Citing informed sources, Tasnim also denied Iran had been attacked from abroad. Blasts were also reported in southern Syria, according to a local activist group.
How did Iran respond?
Air defense systems over several Iranian cities were activated, state media reported.
Flights to the cities of Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz were suspended, as were airports across several parts of the country, according to the Mehr news agency. Flight-tracking software showed commercial flights avoiding western Iran, including Isfahan, and skirting Tehran to the north and east. One flydubai plane that had already departed for Tehran had to return to Dubai after the Iranian capital's airport was closed, the Emirati airline said in a statement. On Friday morning, Iranian television carried a live feed of normal road traffic at a roundabout in Isfahan, while the official IRNA news agency said "no major damage" was reported after the explosions.
Why now?
Iran-backed armed groups across the region have carried out attacks on Israel since the war in Gaza broke out in October.Both Lebanon's Hezbollah and Palestinian militant group Hamas are backed by Iran. But the recent, and direct Israel-Iran exchanges have ventured into unprecedented territory. In response to a deadly attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus on April 1 widely blamed on Israel, Tehran fired hundreds of missiles and drones at its arch-foe. Israel had vowed to respond to that onslaught launched on Saturday, which was mostly intercepted and caused no deaths.
Just hours before the explosions were heard inside Iran on Friday, the foreign minister warned that Israel would come to "regret" any attack on his country. Speaking at the U.N. Security Council during a meeting on the Middle East on Thursday, Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian called the Islamic republic's weekend barrage a "legitimate defense" and said Israel should "stop any further military adventurism".
What has been the reaction?
Israel's military told AFP on Friday that "we don't have a comment at this time" when asked about reports of explosions and strikes in Iran and Syria. There was no immediate comment from the White House or Pentagon. Several U.S. media outlets reported that Washington had received advanced notice of Israel's strikes, but had not endorsed the operation or played any part in its execution.

Blinken says US 'not involved in any offensive operation'

Agence France Presse/April 19/2024
The United States was "not involved in any offensive operation", U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday following reports that Israel had carried out revenge strikes on Iran. "I'm not going to speak to these reported events... All I can say is for our part and for all the members of the G7 our focus is on de-escalation", Blinken told a press conference on the Italian island of Capri. The United States told the Group of Seven foreign ministers on Friday that it received “last minute” information from Israel about a drone action in Iran, Italy’s foreign minister said. Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, who chaired the meeting of ministers of industrialized countries, said the United States provided the information at a Friday morning session that was changed at the last minute to address the suspected attack. Tajani said the U.S. informed the G7 ministers that it had been “informed at the last minute” by Israel about the drones. “But there was no sharing of the attack by the U.S. It was a mere information.”

Russia: We told Israel 'Iran does not want escalation'

Agence France Presse/April 19/2024
Russia has made clear to Israel that Iran "does not want escalation", Moscow's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday, after reports Israel had carried out retaliatory strikes against its arch-rival. "There have been telephone contacts between the leadership of Russia and Iran, our representatives and the Israelis. We made it very clear in these conversations, we told the Israelis that Iran does not want escalation," Lavrov said in an interview with Russian radio stations.

International reactions after Israel's reported attack on Iran

Agence France Presse/April 19/2024
International reactions Friday after Israel's reported attack on the Iranian province of Isfahan, where it has military bases and nuclear facilities:
"China opposes any actions that further escalate tensions and will continue to play a constructive role to de-escalate the situation," said foreign ministry spokesman Lin Jian.
UN nuclear watchdog
"IAEA can confirm that there is no damage to Iran’s nuclear sites. Director General Rafael Grossi continues to call for extreme restraint from everybody and reiterates that nuclear facilities should never be a target in military conflicts. IAEA is monitoring the situation very closely," the International Atomic Energy Agency said on X.
"The Sultanate of Oman is following the continuing tension in the region and condemns the Israeli attack this morning on Isfahan," the foreign ministry said, adding that it also "condemns and denounces Israel’s repeated military attacks in the region.
"Oman once again appeals to the international community to address the causes and roots of tension and conflict through dialogue, diplomacy and political solutions, and to focus on ceasefire efforts in Gaza and resort to international law and United Nations resolutions to reach a just and lasting solution to the Palestinian issue".
"We have to do everything possible (so) that all sides restrain from the escalation in that region ... It is absolutely necessary that the region stays stable and that all sides refrain from further action," European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.
"We have condemned Iran's reckless and dangerous barrage of missiles against Israel on Saturday and Israel absolutely has a right to self-defense. But as I said to Prime Minister Netanyahu when I spoke to him (this week) and more generally, significant escalation is not in anyone's interest, what we want to see is calm heads prevail across the region," Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said.
"We invite everyone to be cautious to avoid an escalation," Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani told RAI news on Capri where Italy is hosting a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of Seven nations.
"This is something we from the government's side take very seriously and are following very closely," Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said.
"There has to be an end to the exchange of blows and escalation."

Iran Issues Unprecedented Nuclear Threat in Duel With Israel
Shannon Vavra/The Daily Beast/April 19/2024
Iran warned on Thursday that it might review its nuclear “doctrine,” threatening a potential break from the publicly stated “peaceful” objectives of its nuclear program. “The threats of the Zionist regime [Israel] against Iran's nuclear facilities make it possible to review our nuclear doctrine and deviate from our previous considerations,” said Ahmad Haghtalab, a top Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander, according to Tasnim. “If the Zionist regime wants to take action against our nuclear centers and facilities, we will surely and categorically reciprocate with advanced missiles against their own nuclear sites,” Haghtalab said, adding the era of “hit and run" is over. The threat to change course comes as Israel has been deliberating a response to Iran’s attack on April 13, when Tehran launched over 300 missiles and drones towards Israel. The attack—conducted in retaliation for the killing of a top commander at an Iranian embassy in Syria earlier this month—was largely thwarted, causing no major damage in Israel. Israeli officials have vowed to respond, but offered no further details, fueling fears about an all-out war erupting in the region. The Israeli government was previously weighing whether to target Iranian nuclear sites in response to an attack by Tehran, according to earlier reporting from London-based Elaph. Israel Vows to Punish Iran as Spiral of Vengeance Deepens.  U.S. officials and other allies have been urging Israel to temper its response to Iran’s attack last weekend. Netanyahu has stalled the retaliation in reaction to the mounting pressure, according to Kan. In particular, Iran uses its nuclear program to build “negotiating leverage” in the face of “perceived international pressure,” according to a U.S. intelligence memo released in February. The memo assessed that in the face of attacks, Iran could seek to enrich uranium up to 90 percent. Tehran has long insisted that its nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes, such as power generation or research. Although such threats are rare, Iran’s intelligence minister, Mahmoud Alavi, said in 2021 that Western sanctions could force Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
“If they push Iran in that direction, then it wouldn’t be Iran’s fault but those who pushed it,” Alavi said at the time. “If a cat is cornered, it may show a kind of behavior that a free cat would not.”A religious edict from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei states that pursuing nuclear weapons is forbidden.
“Building and stockpiling nuclear bombs is wrong,” Khamenei stated in 2019. Efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal—which restricted Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from sanctions—have been stalled since 2018, when then-president Donald Trump abandoned the deal. As of February, Iran was continuing to enrich uranium up to 60 percent purity, according to the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi. Those levels are close to weapons grade and are far above commercial nuclear use, Grossi said. As of late January, Iran was not undertaking “the key nuclear weapons-development activities” that are “necessary” to produce a testable nuclear device, according to a U.S. intelligence assessment. Last March, General Mark Milley, then the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told members of Congress that Iran could pursue weaponization over a matter of months.

Huge blast at military base used by Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, sources say
BAGHDAD (Reuters)/April 19, 2024
A huge blast rocked a military base used by Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) to the south of Baghdad late on Friday, two PMF and two security sources told Reuters. The two security sources said the blast was a result of an unknown airstrike, which happened around midnight Friday. The two PMF sources pointed out the strikes did not lead to casualties but caused material damage. PMF sources said the strikes targeted a headquarters of the PMF at the Kalso military base near the town of Iskandariya around 50 km south of Baghdad. Government officials did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. The PMF started out as a grouping of armed factions, many close to Iran, that was later recognized as a formal security force by Iraqi authorities. Factions within the PMF took part in months of rocket and drone attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq amid Israel’s Gaza campaign but ceased to do so in February.

Iran-Israel: Direct Tit-for-Tat Strikes to Die Down
Samar Kadi/This is Beirut/April 19/2024
The tit-for-tat strikes between Iran and Israel, the latest of which occurred early Friday targeting the city of Isfahan in central Iran, are not expected to go on, as both sides are covertly seeking to de-escalate the unprecedented tensions. Overnight explosions echoed across Isfahan in what was described as an Israeli attack by US and Israeli media. The Iranians, however, reported a different version of what happened. According to Iranian media and officials, a small number of explosions resulted from Iran’s air defenses hitting three drones over Isfahan, alleging that the attack was carried out by “infiltrators” rather than by Israel. The conflicting versions of the incident, whose significance is obviously being downplayed by Iran while Israel has refrained from any official claim or comment, indicate a will on both sides to avert an all-out escalation since an Iranian drone and missile attack on Israel last Saturday, according to Dubai-based Middle East security and defense analyst Riyad Kahwaji. “It is an Israeli air raid carried out with long-range precision weapons, apparently fired from above Iraqi airspace. It hit an airbase near Asfahan, which was used to launch drones against Israel in the last attack,” Kahwaji told This is Beirut.
He explained that the Iranian narrative of the incident, denying any breach of Iran’s sovereignty from outside, “will relieve the Iranian officials of their earlier threats to retaliate if attacked by Israel,” and that Israel, under US pressure, is helping Tehran sell its version by keeping silent.
Friday’s attack demonstrated to the Iranians that Israel can, on its own, hit them and even target their nuclear sites if it is attacked again, Kahwaji contended.
“Iran is like someone who has climbed a high tree and needs to climb down that tree after the attack confirmed Israel’s big qualitative edge over Iran’s quantitative superiority,” said Kahwaji, who is also the director of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis. During its attack on April 13, Iran fired some 310 missiles and drones against Israel, of which only 7 penetrated Israeli air defenses, while Israel fired a small number of missiles, 3 or 4, and almost all got through Iranian defenses. The unprecedented direct confrontation between Israel and Iran, since an Israeli airstrike on April 1 destroyed a building in Iran’s embassy compound in Damascus and killed several Iranian officers, including top generals, is expected to die down. “With the Iranian narrative, there is no need for Tehran to retaliate, and since there would be no retaliation from Iran, Israel does not have to hit back,” Kahwaji said, adding, “the open direct exchanges are over and the shadow warfare by proxy, under the old rules of the game, is back.”For his part, retired Lebanese Army General Khaled Hamadeh noted that today’s Israeli attack on Isfahan “did not come as a surprise.” According to him, the Israeli attack on the Iranian diplomatic mission in Damascus, which opened the door for the tit-for-tat strikes, has ushered in a new phase of regional confrontations under US patronage. “The large scope of last week’s Iranian drone and missile attack against Israel, its weak impact, and the way it was conducted proved that the US is the one that holds the reins of the restrained exchanges,” Hamadeh said in comments to This is Beirut. “The limited scale of today’s attack also falls within that same framework, a phase that would last until after the US presidential election in November, to the least,” he added.

Israeli response to Iranian attack: Strikes on Isfahan airbase
LBCI/April 19, 2024
Israel wasted no time in responding to Iran's retaliatory actions, targeting an airbase used by Iranian forces in Isfahan, adjacent to a nuclear site, according to the Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post. However, conflicting information emerged regarding the nature of the attack. Israeli sources spoke of long-range missile strikes from aircraft to evade Tehran's radar detection capabilities. Meanwhile, the Iranian narrative, relayed by Iran's Space Agency spokesperson, Hossein Dalirian, claimed that Israel's response involved the launch of 500 drones and a missile, all of which were reportedly intercepted. Described as "weak" by Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel's response prompted international calls for de-escalation. Israel's retaliation to Iran's actions was thus limited in scope. On the Iranian side, officials have signaled no intention for further escalation. Does this signify the end of the recent cycle of tit-for-tat responses sparked by the targeting of the Iranian consulate in Syria?

Iran’s military response will be ‘immediate and at a maximum level’ if Israel attacks, foreign minister says
Simone McCarthy and Tara John, CNN/April 19, 2024
Iran’s Foreign Minister issued warning to Israel just hours before Israel attack on IranScroll back up to restore default view. Iran’s response if Israel takes any further military action against it would be “immediate and at a maximum level,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told CNN Thursday, as fears rise of an escalation of the conflict in the Middle East. “In case the Israeli regime embarks on adventurism again and takes action against the interests of Iran, the next response from us will be immediate and at a maximum level,” Amir-Abdollahian told CNN’s Erin Burnett in an exclusive interview in New York. His remarks come in the wake of an unprecedented Iranian attack on Israel last week that Tehran said was retaliation for a deadly suspected Israeli airstrike on Iran’s consulate in Syria – placing the region on edge as Israel vowed to strike back in return. Amir-Abdollahian made the comments hours before a US official told CNN Israel carried out a military strike inside Iran. Iranian state media had reported explosions were heard close to a major military airbase near the Iranian city of Isfahan Friday morning, and a government official said Iranian air defenses had intercepted three drones. Last Saturday, Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles on Israel in response to the April 1 attack on its Damascus consulate that killed at least seven officials, including a top Iranian commander. The Iranian attack on April 13 appeared designed to maximize spectacle while minimizing casualties, and Israel and its allies downed the vast bulk of the projectiles. The tit-for-tat strikes have brought a decades long shadow war between Israel and Iran out in the open and sent fear coursing through the Middle East.
Israel’s allies, including the United States, have called for restraint from Israel in a bid to prevent strikes from escalating into a regional war, as Israel’s ongoing war against Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza sends tensions between it and its neighbors soaring. It is unclear if Israel will listen to the calls of its allies. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday said Israel will make its “own decisions” when responding to Iran’s airstrikes. Speaking from the Iranian Permanent Mission to the United Nations, Amir-Abdollahian said Iran sincerely hoped Israel would not repeat “the previous egregious error,” referencing the apparent Israeli strike in Damascus. “If the Israeli regime commits the grave error once again our response will be decisive, definitive and regretful for them,” Amir-Abdollahian said, noting that this warning had been communicated to the White House via the Swiss Embassy in Tehran.
“We do not seek to create tension and crisis or increase such situations in the Middle East and we sincerely hope the Israeli regime does not repeat the previous egregious error,” he said. The details of a potential “maximum response” have been planned by Iran’s armed forces, he added. Amir-Abdollahian also said he is hopeful potential Israeli actions could be stopped by the US and that the White House “will not give renewed permission for adventure-seeking” by Israel. “We believe that America will calculate according to messages that were exchanged between us over the past six months,” he said, when asked whether American assets could be targeted if the US helps to defend against incoming missiles against Iran. “In (the) previous operation, we announced to the Americans that we will not target American bases and installations in the region other than if we come across a condition in which the United States of America puts itself beside the Israeli government in order to expand the warfare intentions,” he said. Amir-Abdollahian also said the intent of the Iranian strike on Israel last weekend was ” to warn” and to “have taken equal action” and “to let it (be) known we do have the means to respond.” He said the more than 300 missiles and drones fired by Iran on Saturday “stayed within a minimum of frameworks” and the action was “legitimate defense” in response to the suspected Israeli strike. “Our operations in response were carried out at a minimum because we were not seeking to hit multiple targets,” he said.

US vetoes UN resolution: Will Palestine eventually attain the right of full UN membership?
LBCI/April 19, 2024
The United States vetoed the United Nations Security Council resolution granting full UN membership to Palestine. The resolution, proposed by Algeria, was put to a vote before the 15 member states of the council. Among the ten non-permanent council members, Algeria, Ecuador, Guyana, Japan, South Korea, Malta, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and Slovenia approved the Palestinian proposal, while Switzerland abstained from voting. Of the five permanent council members, China, Russia, and France voted in favor of the resolution. France's stance was notable, as it distinguished itself from the rest of Israel's allies. This French position aligns with Paris' ongoing efforts to broker a ceasefire in Gaza and take decisive steps towards the establishment of a Palestinian state. A draft resolution to this effect was presented by the French delegation to the Security Council in early April, reflecting European aspirations in this matter, as reiterated by several countries, notably Spain, which called for recognition of the Palestinian state. However, the stance of Israel's remaining allies, such as Britain, which abstained from voting, and the United States, which objected, were not surprising. The Palestinian presidency condemned Washington's use of veto power, deeming it unethical and unjustifiable, portraying it as blatant aggression pushing the region toward the brink. This sentiment was echoed by Palestine's representative at the United Nations Security Council meeting. Yet, if Palestine is not a member of the United Nations, how does it attend Security Council sessions through its permanent representative at the UN General Assembly? In 2012, Palestine was granted non-member observer state status by the United Nations General Assembly following a resolution adopted by a large majority. In the same resolution, the General Assembly expressed hope that the Security Council would respond to Palestine's request for full membership, submitted in September 2011. Palestine's request has been reiterated multiple times without results, and its membership in the United Nations remains incomplete to this day. Will Palestine eventually attain this right, or will Israel and its allies have the final say?

French police detain suspect after surrounding Iranian consulate in Paris
RFI/April 19, 2024
French authorities on Friday detained a man after receiving an alert from the Iranian consulate in Paris that someone had entered carrying an explosive, the capital's police authority said. A security perimeter was reportedly set up around the consulate ahead of what was described as an "imminent police intervention" after witnesses say they saw a man enter the building carrying either a grenade or an explosive belt. Authorities said Paris prefect Laurent Nuñez had mobilised the BRI, an elite unit, after the consulate made an intervention request to police. France joins other countries condemning Iranian drone attacks on Israel. The area around the Iranian consulate, on Avenue d'Iéna in the 16th arrondissement, has been completely sealed off and a strong police presence remains. Traffic on metro lines 9 and 6 serving Trocadero station, the closest to the Iranian consulate, has been interrupted. This comes as tensions in the Middle East rise following an overnight counter-attack on Iran – allegedly launched by Israel – in retaliation for an Iranian drone attack on the Jewish state earlier this week.

Hamas chief Haniyeh arrives in Turkiye for talks
AFP/April 20, 2024
ISTANBUL: A leader of Palestinian militant group Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, arrived in Istanbul Friday evening for talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the death toll in Gaza passed 34,000. A statement from Hamas Friday said Erdogan and Haniyeh would discuss the conflict in Gaza, adding that the head of the group’s political bureau was accompanied by a delegation. Middle East tensions are at a high after Israel’s reported attack on Iran and Gaza bracing for a new Israeli offensive. Erdogan insisted on Wednesday that he would continue “to defend the Palestinian struggle and to be the voice of the oppressed Palestinian people.” But talking to journalists on Friday, he refused to be drawn on the details on the meeting. Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan was in Qatar Wednesday and said he spent three hours with Haniyeh and his aides for “a wide exchange of views in particular about negotiations for a ceasefire.”Qatar, a mediator between Israel and Hamas, acknowledged Wednesday that negotiations to end hostilities in Gaza and liberate hostages were “stalling.” Fidan said he spoke with Haniyeh, who lives in Qatar, about how Hamas — designated as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union — “must clearly express its expectations, especially about a two-state solution.” Erdogan’s last meeting with Haniyeh was in July 2023 when Erdogan hosted him and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas at the presidential palace in Ankara. Haniyeh had last met Fidan in Turkiye on January 2.
The war in Gaza started after Hamas’s unprecedented attack on Israel on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of about 1,170 people, mainly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures. Militants also took about 250 hostages. Israel says around 129 are believed to be held in Gaza, including 34 presumed dead. Israel’s retaliatory military campaign has killed at least 34,012 people, mostly women and children, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.

Latest English LCCC  analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published
on April 19-20/2024
Question: “What are the new heavens and the new earth?”

GotQuestions.org?/April 19, 2024
Answer: In Revelation 21:1, John sees something spectacular: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away...” This new earth and new heavens are sometimes referred to as the “eternal state.” As seen in Revelation chapters 21-22, the new earth will be the eternal dwelling place of believers in Jesus Christ. Scripture gives us a few details of the new heavens and new earth.
The current heavens and earth have long been subject to God’s curse because of mankind’s sin. All creation “has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth” (Romans 8:22) as it awaits the fulfillment of God’s plan and “the children of God to be revealed” (verse 19). Heaven and earth will pass away (Mark 13:31), and they will be replaced by the new heavens and the new earth. At that time, the Lord, seated on His throne, says, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:5). In the new creation, sin will be totally eradicated, and “there shall be no more curse” (Revelation 22:3, NKJV).
The new heaven and new earth are also mentioned in Isaiah 65:17, Isaiah 66:22, and 2 Peter 3:13. Peter tells us that the new heaven and new earth will be “where righteousness dwells.” Isaiah says that “the former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” Things will be completely new, and the old order of things, with the accompanying sorrow and tragedy, will be gone.
The new earth will be free from sin, evil, sickness, suffering, and death. It will be similar to our current earth, but without the curse of sin. It will be earth as God originally intended it to be. It will be Eden restored.
A major feature of the new earth will be the New Jerusalem. John calls it “the Holy City . . . coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” (Revelation 21:2). This glorious city, with its streets of gold and pearly gates, is situated on a new, glorious earth. The tree of life will be there (Revelation 22:2). This city represents the final state of redeemed mankind, forever in fellowship with God: “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. . . . His servants will serve him. They will see his face” (Revelation 21:3; 22:3–4).
In the new heavens and new earth, Scripture says, there are seven things notable for their absence—seven things that are “no more”:
• no more sea (Revelation 21:1)
• no more death (Revelation 21:4)
• no more mourning (Revelation 21:4)
• no more weeping (Revelation 21:4)
• no more pain (Revelation 21:4)
• no more curse (Revelation 22:3)
• no more night (Revelation 22:5)
The creation of the new heavens and new earth brings the promise that God “will wipe every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 21:4). This event comes after the tribulation, after the Lord’s second coming, after the millennial kingdom, after the final rebellion, after the final judgment of Satan, and after the great white throne judgment. The brief description of the new heavens and new earth is the last glimpse into eternity that the Bible gives.

Israel’s Strike Was Smaller Than Expected, and So Was Iran’s Reaction

Patrick Kingsley/The New York Times/April 19, 2024
JERUSALEM — The relatively limited scope of Israel’s overnight strikes on Iran, and a subdued response from Iranian officials, may have lowered the chances of an immediate escalation in fighting between the two countries, analysts said Friday. While Israel is still fighting wars on two fronts, against Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon, the likelihood of a third front has ebbed, at least for now. For days, there have been fears that a forceful Israeli response to Iran’s attack on southern Israel last weekend could prompt an even more aggressive riposte from Iran, potentially turning a tit-for-tat confrontation into a wider war. Foreign leaders advised Israel to treat its successful defense against Iran’s missile barrage as a victory that required no retaliation, warning against a counterattack that might further destabilize a region already roiled by Israel’s wars with two Iranian allies, Hamas and Hezbollah, and tensions with a third, the Houthis in Yemen.But when it finally came early Friday, Israel’s strike appeared less damaging than expected, allowing Iranian officials and state-run news outlets to downplay its significance, at least for now. In public, no high-ranking Iranian official had blamed Israel for the strike by Friday evening, even if in private, several had acknowledged Israel’s hand. The lack of public attribution from the Iranian government or acknowledgment of responsibility from Israel gave Iran the chance to move on without feeling humiliated, analysts said.
Iranian officials said that no enemy aircraft had been detected in Iranian airspace and that the main attack — apparently on a military base in central Iran — had been initiated by small unmanned drones that were most likely launched from inside Iranian territory. The nature of the attack had precedent: Israel used similar methods in an attack on a military facility in Isfahan last year.
By sunrise, Iranian state-run news outlets were projecting a swift return to normalcy, broadcasting footage of calm street scenes, while officials publicly dismissed the impact of the attack. Airports were also reopened after a brief overnight closure. Analysts cautioned that any outcome was still possible. But the initial Iranian reaction suggested that the country’s leaders would not rush to respond, despite warning in recent days that they would react forcefully and swiftly to any Israeli strike. “The way they present it to their own people, and the fact that the skies are open already, allows them to decide not to respond,” said Sima Shine, a former head of research for the Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence agency, and an Iran expert. But, she added, “We have made so many evaluation mistakes that I am very hesitant to say it definitively.” In a miscalculation that set off the current round of violence, Israel struck an Iranian Embassy compound in Syria on April 1, killing seven Iranian officials including three senior commanders.
For years, Israel had launched similar attacks on Iranian interests in Syria as well as Iran, without provoking a direct response from Iran. But the scale of Israel’s attack April 1 appeared to end Iran’s patience, with Iranian leaders warning that it would no longer accept Israeli strikes on Iranian interests anywhere in the region. Two weeks later, Iran fired more than 300 missiles and drones at Israel, causing little damage but shocking Israelis with the scale of the attack. Even if Iran does not respond in a similar way to Israel’s strike Friday, it has left the world guessing about how it would respond to future attacks, Shine said.
Syrian authorities said Friday that Israel had again struck a site in Syria, about the same time as the attack on Iran. It was the kind of attack that Israel had made dozens of times in the past without provoking a direct Iranian reaction, but which — given Iran’s response to Israel’s April 1 strike in Syria — might now prompt a more aggressive retaliation from Iran.
“The question is whether they will stand by their red line,” Shine said. “But what exactly is the red line? Is it only high-ranking people? Is it only embassies? Or is it every Iranian target in Syria?” For some analysts of Iran, it is unlikely that the Iranian government seeks an all-out war, given that its main priority is to sustain its power at home amid rising domestic discontent. Across recent decades, Iran has attempted to gradually expand its regional influence through proxies and allies, rather than risking it all in a direct confrontation with Israel. While Iran’s recent missile strikes successfully challenged Israeli assumptions about how Iran operates, “at the end of the day, escalation is not in Iran’s interest,” said Sanam Vakil, director of the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House, a research group based in London. “Above all, it is seeking to preserve the regime’s security and stability,” as well as strengthening its allies and gradually reducing U.S. influence on the Middle East, Vakil said in an email. “De-escalation allows it to get back to those goals which require patience and slow gains amid regional vacuums and chaos,” she added. Within Israel, some portrayed the country’s strike as a failure that caused little damage and suggested that Israel had, ultimately, been intimidated into carrying out only a minor retaliatory assault compared to Iran’s much more aggressive attack. In an apparent allusion to the strike on social media, Itamar Ben-Gvir, a far-right Israeli government minister, wrote a single word, roughly translated as “Pathetic!” Before the attack, Ben-Gvir had pushed for a stronger response.
Others hailed it as a deft tactical success that gave Iran the chance to avoid retaliating without losing face, while still proving to Iran that Israel can strike undetected at the heart of Iranian territory — and do so with much more subtlety than Iran’s own attack last weekend.
Nahum Barnea, a prominent Israeli commentator, compared Israel’s strike to the biblical story of how David, the ancient Jewish leader, attacked King Saul, another biblical figure. In the story, David chose not to kill Saul despite having the chance to do so, and instead sliced off a sliver of Saul’s robe.
“The intention was to signal to the Iranians that we can get to Iranian soil,” Barnea said in an phone interview. “Not to open a front.”But if it seemed Friday that moderation had won out for now, experts warned that it was only a matter of time before another serious clash occurred.
“The recent open confrontation between the two is just the beginning,” said Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian Israeli professor who teaches Iranian studies at Reichman University in Israel. “Sooner or later, the two will directly confront each other again.”

Where Turkiye figures in the Iran-Israel standoff
Sinem Cengiz/Arab News/April 20/2024
Amid the intensifying tension between Iran and Israel, Turkiye finds itself in a tough but important position given its long border with Iran. Ankara’s response to the escalating conflict, its potential role, and how it might respond require significant attention.
Ankara, known for its swift responses to international developments, reacted unusually to Iran’s airstrikes against Israel last weekend: it was late and cautious. Neither President Recep Tayyip Erdogan nor Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan responded immediately. The first official response came from the Foreign Ministry, which neither condemned nor criticized Iran’s strike. While Turkiye had condemned Israel’s April 1 attack on the Iranian Embassy in Damascus as a violation of international law, it described Iran’s attack as retaliation. Ankara was not caught off guard by Iran’s actions, having anticipated them. However, the tit-for-tat exchanges between Iran and Israel continue. On Friday, Israel appears to have launched an attack on Iranian soil, threatening to drag the region into conflict. This keeps the spotlight on Turkiye’s potential role in defusing the growing tensions.
Turkiye has been in talks with both Iran and the Western actors before and after these attacks. Ankara is among the few actors that has back channels with Israel, Iran, Hamas and the US, aiming to know the limits of the growing tensions and be relevant in the diplomatic arena.
Diplomatic sources suggest that Iran told Turkiye about its planned operation against Israel, but many have questioned why Ankara responded so cautiously and belatedly to these critical developments on its doorstep. Turkiye’s main concern is the potential regional escalation of Israel’s war in Gaza, followed by the risk of escalating Iranian-Israeli tension deflecting international attention from the Gaza war.
Turkiye’s policy on Iranian-Israeli tension has three dimensions: Iran, the US, and security dynamics. Turkish-Iranian relations are not a bed of roses, but Ankara is managing its relations with Tehran cautiously. Turkish-Iranian tensions have escalated in recent years due to their disagreements on Iraq and Syria, and even in Lebanon. One main issue is Tehran’s support for the outlawed PKK. Turkiye’s security perception is closely intertwined with the Kurdish separatist threat, and Ankara has long had the perception that the Kurdish card was being used by Tehran as leverage.
However, despite tensions and mistrust, Turkiye and Iran have learned to engage with each other in a less confrontational manner. Often their relations are described as “manageable competition” or “reluctant cooperation,” as in many ways their regional policies clash. Although they are on the same page regarding the plight of Palestinian people in Gaza, they share differing motivations and visions.
Ankara is among the few actors that has back channels with Israel, Iran, Hamas and the US.The second dimension involves the relationship with the US. Erdogan is scheduled to meet President Joe Biden on May 9, their first meeting in years. The invitation came from the U, and Erdogan attaches importance to this meeting. The two leaders are expected to proceed with caution, avoiding actions that could increase tension. In this regard, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s contact with the Turkish foreign minister after Iran attack on Israel is significant, aiming for a coordinated diplomatic response. The US acknowledged that Turkiye had played a crucial role in conveying messages between Iran and the US. Washington asked Ankara to advise Iran that any action must stay “within certain limits.” Ibrahim Kalin, head of Turkiye’s MIT intelligence agency, has also been asked by the US to act as a mediator in the Israel-Iran tensions. These developments increase Turkiye’s political relevance.
Turkiye has also reached out to the Hamas leadership, ramping up its diplomacy to prevent war in Gaza from being overshadowed by the Israel-Iran tensions. Last week, Fidan visited Qatar to bring the war in Gaza back to the forefront of regional attention, meeting Hamas political leaders and Qatari officials. Hamas political leader Ismael Haniyeh is expected to visit Turkiye at the weekend. In the Gaza war, Ankara has characterized Hamas as a liberation movement rather than a terrorist organization, diverging from its Western allies. Also, Ankara imposed export restrictions to Israel that it will maintain until there is a Gaza ceasefire is reached in Gaza. Although mutual trust is broken, Ankara tries to maintain diplomatic ties with Israel, which are crucial at times of tension.
The third dimension of Turkiye’s perspective is security related. Ankara, grappling with refugee and terrorism issues stemming from the Syrian war, aims to prevent further regional conflicts, especially on its doorstep. Turkiye shares a long border with Iran, making it particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of potential instability, such as the refugee crisis. Turkiye has already experienced the repercussions of wars in Syria and Iraq. Another issue is that terrorist organizations might find fertile ground to carry out attacks during the climate of tension. Needless to say, PKK terrorist attacks are largely due to instability in the region, especially among Turkiye’s neighbors. Before the Gaza war and the latest Iranian-Israeli tension, Turkiye’s regional policy was driven by perceived threats emanating from northern Syria and Iraq, and Ankara had built its strategy accordingly.
Turkiye’s cautious and strategic approach to escalating tensions between Iran and Israel reflects its complex geopolitical considerations, including its relations with the US, regional stability concerns, and security challenges. Ankara’s emphasis on diplomacy highlights its efforts to navigate a volatile situation while safeguarding its national interests and regional stability. Thus, Ankara has real reasons to actively de-escalate tensions and its response to the Iranian-Israeli tension should be understood within this broader context of its international relationships and security priorities.
*Sinem Cengiz is a Turkish political analyst who specializes in Turkiye’s relations with the Middle East. X: @SinemCngz

Another tit-for-tat strike on the road to catastrophe
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/April 20, 2024
An apparent Israeli attack targeting the Iranian city of Isfahan is the latest in a tit-for-tat exchange of military action between the two nations that marks a dangerous escalation in their long-standing conflict, amplifying concerns of broader regional destabilization and potential repercussions on the international stage.
Isfahan holds paramount strategic significance owing to its possession of a military air base alongside nuclear sites, making it a focal point in regional geopolitics. Its military air base is not only as a crucial operational hub for Iranian defense forces but also underscores Iran’s capacity to project power across the region. Isfahan’s nuclear facilities add another layer of complexity to its importance, as they represent a focal point in the ongoing international debate surrounding Iran's nuclear program. Any military action targeting Isfahan not only has the potential to disrupt Iran’s defensive capabilities but also raises concerns about the security and proliferation of nuclear materials in the region. The apparent Israeli strike in Isfahan may therefore signal a deliberate attempt to undermine Iran’s military infrastructure and potentially disrupt its nuclear ambitions, further exacerbating tensions and amplifying the risk of broader conflict escalation in the volatile Middle East.
The underlying dilemma in the conflict between Israel and Iran lies in a dangerous cycle of escalation fueled by mutual perceptions of strength and weakness. Like two longstanding rivals engaged in a high-stakes game of brinkmanship, each side feels compelled to respond to the other’s provocations to avoid appearing weak or conceding defeat. This dynamic creates a self-perpetuating cycle in which any display of restraint is interpreted as a sign of vulnerability, inviting further aggression from the opposing party. Moreover, as each side seeks to outdo the other in demonstrating resolve and strength, the intensity of the responses escalates, exacerbating tensions and perpetuating a spiral of violence. This vicious circle of action and reaction serves only to deepen animosities, making the prospect of de-escalation increasingly elusive and the potential for catastrophic outcomes more likely.
Even before the most recent incident, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian issued a stark warning about escalating tensions in the Middle East and outlining Iran’s unequivocal stance toward any further military actions by Israel.
His declaration emphasized Iran’s readiness to respond with immediate and maximum force should Israel choose to undertake any aggressive action deemed detrimental to Iranian interests. This public statement underscored the pressure to respond decisively, as failure to do so would risk projecting an image of weakness and vulnerability, which could embolden further aggression from the other side. In essence, each country finds itself in a position where it must demonstrate strength and resolve to deter future incursions by its adversary, thereby perpetuating the cycle of escalation and reinforcing the precarious nature of the ongoing conflict.
With each retaliatory strike, tensions escalate, increasing the likelihood of a conflagration that could engulf the entire region. Another issue is that the escalating tensions between Iran and Israel come at a critical juncture when a significant red line has been crossed: both nations are now engaged in direct attacks against each other. This marks a pivotal shift in their long-standing conflict, as it moves beyond proxy engagements or covert operations into open hostilities. Such direct confrontations between Iran and Israel introduce a heightened level of volatility to an already unstable region, with potential ramifications that extend far beyond their borders. It is a departure from previous confrontations, raising concerns about the potential for a wider regional conflagration and the involvement of other actors with vested interests in the Middle East. As each side escalates its military actions, the risk of further escalation and the destabilization of the region looms large, necessitating a careful and nuanced approach to de-escalation and conflict resolution. Over five decades, the animosity between Israel and Iran has played out through various indirect means, often via third parties or strikes and other operations in countries such as Syria and Lebanon. This approach, characterized by a shadowy conflict conducted through proxies, has probably been a defining feature of their rivalry. By operating indirectly, they sought to pursue their strategic objectives while minimizing direct confrontation and the risk of outright war. Additionally, the realm of cyber warfare emerged as a potent tool in their arsenals, offering a new avenue for exerting influence and inflicting damage without the need for direct military engagement. However, in spite of these efforts to wage conflict through indirect means, the recent escalation to direct attacks signifies a notable departure from past tactics, signaling a potentially dangerous new phase in their antagonistic relationship.
Unless either Israel or Iran chooses to break the cycle of tit-for-tat retaliation and actively seeks de-escalation, the trajectory points inexorably towards a full-fledged war. With each retaliatory strike, tensions escalate, increasing the likelihood of a conflagration that could engulf the entire region. The absence of decisive action to halt the cycle of violence perpetuates a dangerous dynamic where each side feels compelled to respond in kind, pushing the brinkmanship to its limits.
In such a scenario, the risk of unintended consequences and catastrophic outcomes looms large, underscoring the urgent need for diplomatic efforts to defuse tension and prevent a devastating escalation into open warfare.
**Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian American political scientist. X: @Dr_Rafizadeh

Gulf states and Central Asian republics chart a path forward

Luke Coffey/Arab News/April 19/2024
Trade, transit and energy topped the agenda when foreign ministers from the GCC and Central Asian republics met in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, last week for their second “strategic dialogue”, following an inaugural event in Jeddah last July.
The six Gulf states and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan share many of the same challenges and opportunities on the global stage.Both regions are an important geographical, cultural, and transit crossroads on the Eurasian landmass. Both were the focus of competition between imperial powers in the 18th and 19th centuries and each still deals with the consequences of that today. In the 21st century, both regions strive to pursue independent foreign policies while balancing relations with bigger powers such as the US, Russia, India, China, and the EU. The joint declaration published after last week’s meeting suggests a determination to improve relations, especially in the policy areas that matter most to both Gulf and Central Asian countries.
For example, the declaration had a strong emphasis on deepening cooperation on energy issues. Both regions are rich in natural resources and are large producers of oil and gas. Considering the volatility of global energy markets in recent years, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it makes sense that these two regions want to cooperate on energy issues.
Both regions are an important geographical, cultural, and transit crossroads on the Eurasian landmass.
There was also importance placed on improving transport and transit routes between the two regions. While there is potential to increase transit connectivity between the Gulf and Central Asia, doing so in practice will be easier said than done for security and geopolitical reasons. Looking at a map, it is obvious that the most direct route between the Gulf and Central Asia is overland through Iran. But the geopolitical realities in the region mean that this route cannot maximize its full potential. Therefore, policymakers must pursue other creative options to connect the regions.
The most promising transport link that could connect the two regions is the Trans Caspian International Transport Route, which was specifically mentioned in the joint declaration. Commonly referred to as the Middle Corridor, this trade route transits through the South Caucasus, over the Caspian Sea, and into Central Asia connecting the markets of Europe and east Asia. However, there is potential to connect the Gulf region to the project too.
Türkiye has proposed an ambitious project called the Iraq Development Road, also known as the Dry Canal corridor, to link Iraq’s southern Gulf coast to Turkish ports on the Mediterranean by 2038. If the proposed Gulf Railway connecting the six GCC states by rail ever becomes a reality, the possibilities are great. In theory, it would be possible for goods to be transported by rail from the Gulf to markets along the Middle Corridor, via the Dry Canal corridor.
It would be in the interests of Central Asia and the Gulf states to work with regional players to help facilitate genuine transport links and connections across the whole Eurasian land mass. Recently, European Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said the EU would commit €10 billion in support of investments to improve transport connectivity in the Middle Corridor. The US and the Organization of Turkic States have also been looking at transport investment opportunities along the route of the Middle Corridor. Being in the center of the Middle Corridor, Azerbaijan also plays an important role as a transit hub. This is why it was particularly noteworthy that Azerbaijan was invited as a “guest of honor” to the meeting in Tashkent.
If the proposed Gulf Railway connecting the six GCC states by rail ever becomes a reality, the possibilities are great.
However, one major issue that could stand in the way of energy and transport development is security. There is concern about the growing transnational terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan that can spill over into the broader Central Asia region. Of course, Al-Qaeda and Daesh are a particular concern for the Gulf too. As the humanitarian and governance situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate, the security consequences could impact the region and affect transit projects.
So what are the next steps for GCC-Central Asia cooperation? The diplomatic calendar is filling up fast. In the coming months there will be two GCC-Central Asian Investment Forums in Saudi Arabia and Kyrgyzstan. These could generate private sector interest in regional and energy transit projects. Next year, heads of state from the GCC and Central will hold a strategic dialogue in the historically important Silk Road city of Samarkand, and the third ministerial meeting will take place in Kuwait.
All these meetings are important, especially as the Gulf states and Central Asian republics start to deepen and grow their burgeoning relationship. However, meetings and summits go only so far, and practical solutions to the problems facing the countries in the two regions must be pursued in the months ahead. By the time of the heads of state meet in Samarkand next year, there needs to be a concrete road map backed up with funding to make some of the energy and transit projects that have been discussed a reality.
As the world becomes increasingly multipolar, smaller but strategic regions will attract more attention from global powers. The Gulf and Central Asia are two good examples of this. It is in the interest of the countries in these regions to find areas of cooperation, especially when there are overlapping interests. This is the best way to ensure stability, security and economic prosperity.
*Luke Coffey is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. X: @LukeDCoffey

Is Washington’s Brain Fog Lifting?
David Hale/This is Beirut/April 19/2024
Small powers can rarely indulge in national security self-delusion. The potentially existential cost of such luxury is simply too high. It is a different matter for great powers, which can carry on in willful contradiction of national interests, obvious threats, and plain facts for some time before reality intrudes. Since October 7, 2023, Washington’s foreign policy establishment has had a hard time accepting the obvious reality that Iran is the principal protagonist in the current state of affairs in the Middle East. On April 13-14, 2024, as America joined with Israel in foiling a barrage of Iranian missiles and drones, Washington’s six-month brain fog showed signs of clearing. With this successful defense, America and Israel took meaningful steps toward restoring their deterrence posture against their adversaries, Iran, and its proxies, although the absence of effective deterrence brought us to this point. The joint operation by Israel and the U.S. has demonstrated to skeptics the value of the U.S. security umbrella and America’s commitment to enforce it.
This cycle of violence exposed the central role of Iran in the ongoing, interconnected regional conflict and the menace it poses not just to Israel, but to Arab moderate states that seek peace and stability. Iran’s claim at the UN that its aggression is an act of self-defense in response to an attack on its diplomatic facility in Damascus is characteristically hypocritical. This same Iranian regime was complicit in 1979-81 in the 444-day occupation of the American Embassy in Tehran and the kidnapping of its diplomats there, the bombing of not one but two American Embassies in Beirut in the 1980s, and a long list of transgressions against the sovereignty of other states. They should give us all a break before invoking the Vienna Conventions and UN Charter.
But if left in isolation, this episode resolves nothing. Iranian leaders are backing down from this round not because they want the conflict to end, but because they want it to continue — at the level of proxies, where Iran has some comparative advantages and the cost to it is cheaper. This is why if we are ever going to succeed in bringing war by proxies in the Middle East to an end, we should build on today’s success so that Iranian leaders continue to feel the costs of their limited, but endless proxy war strategy. It may be time to pause escalation in this specific episode absent further Iranian escalation, whether it is direct or indirect. But Tehran should know that any such escalation for starters will entail retaliation against valuable IRGC facilities and personnel throughout the Arab world.
If Washington’s brain fog about Iran’s role is truly lifting, then it is an opportunity to build a bipartisan consensus that will enable the United States to follow through with persistent and comprehensive pressure on Iran by an expanding alliance of like-minded states. Meaningful measures should include:
–the enforcement of existing sanctions, especially on Iranian energy exports;
–the interdiction of Iranian military supplies to its proxies and Russia;
–the persuasion of certain Arab states to end hedging strategies toward Iran that arose from a loss of confidence in America’s security umbrella; and,
–the G7 condemnation of Iran’s aggression and endorsement of strategies to pressure Iran.
Of course, there are local and homegrown problems between Israel and the Palestinians. The solutions to them have evaded all of us, despite years of well-meaning initiatives based since the 1990s on a two-state formula. Iran has skillfully exploited this conflict, alongside other ones. As we explore how best to undertake the long road back to restoring the confidence needed for regional peacemaking, America should make clear that success hinges on constraining Iran’s ability to play the spoiler role by abetting extremists and fueling violence. Isolating Iran will be a critical first step to any successful strategy to address the needs and aspirations of Israel and the Palestinians, as well as those of Lebanese and Israelis.
Above all, we must be persistent. Once the violence subsides and the sense of crisis eases, the temptation in Washington and elsewhere will be to move on and not address underlying causes. This pattern has enabled America’s adversaries to gain strength during periods of American neglect. Our policies should be realistic, coherent, and rational. Policies that focus only on local problems and proxies, while ignoring Iran’s central role, will guarantee a never-ending tumult in the Middle East. We will never regain regional stability if costs are felt only by Iran’s disposable proxies, and not by Iran itself. That is the primary lesson of this latest round. Turning the tables on Iran requires a persistent, multi-faceted approach, just as sophisticated and durable as Iran’s approach. All means of pressure — from diplomacy to sanctions to military action — should be put in play. This effort will not be easy for America in an election year. But without such determination, we and our allies will remain on the defensive, and innocent people in the region the victims of weak policies that invite aggression. Strength and deterrence, not weakness and acquiescence, are the ingredients for peace.