English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For April 21/2024
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
Pray for us; we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honourably in all things
Letter to the Hebrews 13/18-25: “Pray for us; we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honourably in all things.I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you very soon. Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen. I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been set free; and if he comes in time, he will be with me when I see you. Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those from Italy send you greetings. Grace be with all of you.”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on April 20-21/2024
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
‘No retreat,’ vows Hezbollah deputy amid renewed border clashes
Source close to Hezbollah says three fighters killed in Israel strike
Southern Lebanon: Three Hezbollah Fighters Killed
Security and support in the South: French-Lebanese military meeting in Paris focuses on Lebanese army needs
South Lebanon: After a Cautious Calm, Israel Targets a House in Kfar Kila
Lebanese Crises and LAF Needs Discussed at the Élysée
Macron says committed to containing Lebanon-Israel violence
Military alert in northern Israel: Concerns mount over Iran's proxies as Israeli defense systems prove inadequate
J. Aoun Affirms from Paris the Importance of De-escalation in Southern Lebanon
TotalEnergies' report delay: Lebanon presses TotalEnergies for report on oil exploration
Joseph Gebeily to LBCI: Lebanese army has crucial role in south Lebanon's stability
After the rain: Dubai's response to climate challenges raises concerns for Lebanon's next winter
Violence will not stop in Middle East until Gaza war ends, senior Hezbollah figure warns

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 20-21/2024
New Iran Oil Sanctions Passed by US House in Foreign Aid Package
US House Passes Bills to Aid Ukraine, Bolster Taiwan
Israel and Iran's apparent strikes and counterstrikes give new insights into both militaries
Iran, Israel appear to pull back from brink as Gaza bombed again
Israel's Iran attack carefully calibrated after internal splits, US pressure
Calls for calm after reported Israeli strike on Iran
Deadly blast at Iraq army base amid Israel-Iran tensions
Israeli troops raid West Bank refugee camp, Gaza fighting continues
Thousands of Israelis join anti-government protests calling for new elections
Blinken to press China over its support for Russian defense base
Israeli Army Kills 10 Militants in West Bank Raid
Haniyeh heads to Turkey: Has Hamas become a political burden for Qatar?
Erdogan Urges Palestinian Unity After Meeting Hamas Chief
Palestinian Authority to ‘Reconsider’ Relations with US
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov signals Putin's plan to seize Kharkiv and create a 'sanitary zone'

Titles For The Latest English LCCC  analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources on April 20-21/2024
Israel Under Attack – U.S. Administration Abandoning Its Ally?/Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/April 20, 2024
Editorial — The Unspoken War/Michel Touma/This Is Beirut/April 20/2024
The Distinguished, and the Others/Nicolas Sbeih/This Is Beirut/April 20/2024
Where Turkiye figures in the Iran-Israel standoff/Sinem Cengiz/Arab News/April 20, 2024
Why US voters are looking beyond Biden and Trump/Andrew Hammond/Arab News/April 20, 2024
Israeli settlers are becoming increasingly brazen in their violence/Yossi Mekelberg/Arab News/April 20, 2024
Sudan needs a new approach to aid — and fast/Hafed Al-Ghwell/Arab News/April 20, 2024

Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on April 20-21/2024
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

‘No retreat,’ vows Hezbollah deputy amid renewed border clashes

NAJIA HOUSSARI/Arab News/April 20, 2024
BEIRUT: Hezbollah on Saturday launched a series of strikes against the Israeli army, targeting military sites near Lebanon’s southern border from Hermon to the coastal city of Naqoura. The group said that it fired missiles at Israeli soldiers deployed near Har Addir mountain, opposite Rmaych, a mostly Christian village on the border. It also targeted “spy equipment” in the Israeli outpost of Al-Raheb, opposite the Lebanese village of Aita Al-Shaab. Hezbollah said that an operation targeting the Hadb Yarin outpost “with appropriate weapons” resulted in direct hits,” while Ruwaizat Al-Alam in the Kfar Shouba Hills was struck with with four missiles.Sirens sounded in Even Menachem in western Galilee, and in the Shomera and Kiryat Shmona settlements in response to fears of a Hezbollah drone attack. Israeli media later confirmed damage to farm property in Even Menachem caused by Hezbollah rockets. Most residents have fled southern areas of Lebanon after 196 days of clashes between Hezbollah and Israel in the wake of the Gaza conflict. Israeli airstrikes targeted a house in Kfarkela and the town of Aita Al-Shaab, while Israeli artillery shelled the town of Dhayra. Reports said a person injured in the Kfarkela strike had been taken to hospital. The Israeli army fired flares over villages in the western and central areas of the border region late on Friday. Reconnaissance aircraft flew throughout the night over border villages adjacent to the Blue Line, reaching the outskirts of Tyre. Hezbollah officials said that “we will respond proportionately to any Israeli violation of the established ceiling in the confrontation.” The group’s deputy, Naim Qassem, said: “If any escalation reaches a certain level, we will confront it as required.”He added: “There is no withdrawal from the confrontation, and no retreat from support for and protection of Gaza.”Fighting in southern Lebanon will continue until Israel halts its attacks on Gaza, Qassem said. “This support is for Gaza and Lebanon as well because whoever sees what is happening in Gaza knows that if they remain silent, they will be next, and they know that if they allow the Israelis to be arrogant, the Israelis will believe they can do whatever they want,” he said. Hezbollah Central Council member Hassan Al-Baghdadi said that Israel “has not had a worse time than now,” adding: “This can be observed from the reaction of its agents.”

Source close to Hezbollah says three fighters killed in Israel strike
AFP/April 20, 2024
BEIRUT: Three Hezbollah fighters were killed Saturday in an Israeli strike on a house in southern Lebanon, a source close to the Iran-backed group told AFP. “Three Hezbollah fighters were killed, and two others seriously wounded in an Israeli air strike on a house in the area of Al-Jebbayn,” the source, who asked to remain anonymous, said. Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported earlier on Saturday that “enemy aircraft carried out a strike targeting a house in Al-Jebbayn, and rescue teams were headed to the area.”Hezbollah said it had fired on several Israeli targets, including soldiers and spy equipment. Since Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel triggered war in Gaza, there have been near-daily cross-border exchanges of fire between the Israeli army and Hezbollah, a Hamas ally. The violence has killed at least 375 people in Lebanon, mostly fighters but including 70 civilians, according to an AFP tally. In northern Israel, 10 soldiers and eight civilians have been killed, according to the army. In recent days, Hezbollah has intensified its attacks against Israeli military positions, with tensions across the Middle East surging. On April 13, Iran, which supports both Hezbollah and Hamas, launched an unprecedented drone and missile attack on Israel in retaliation for a deadly April 1 air strike which levelled its consulate in Damascus.

Southern Lebanon: Three Hezbollah Fighters Killed
This Is Beirut/This Is Beirut/April 20/2024
Three Hezbollah fighters were killed on Saturday in an Israeli raid on a house in Jebbayn. According to sources close to the pro-Iranian group, as reported by AFP, two other fighters “were seriously wounded.”On Saturday, artillery exchanges between Hezbollah and Israel intensified in the early afternoon, with the Israeli Army conducting a raid on a house in Kfar Kila, where, according to preliminary information, one person was killed. The Israeli Army also announced that it had carried out an airstrike on a Hezbollah military building in Aita al-Shaab. Furthermore, it bombed Mays al-Jabal, Dhayra, Tallet Hamames, and the outskirts of Kfarshouba, Kfar Hamam, Rashaya al-Foukhar, and Hebbariyeh. Simultaneously, alarm sirens sounded in many settlements in the Upper Galilee. According to Israeli Channel 12, “two rockets launched from southern Lebanon fell in an open area of the Upper Galilee without causing casualties.” Meanwhile, Hezbollah claimed, in a series of statements, attacks on positions in Hadeb Yarin, Raheb, Roueissat el-Alam in Kfarchouba, and Hanita, as well as against gatherings of Israeli soldiers in northern Israel. It also announced targeting two military buildings in Metoula and two others in Shlomi in response to Israeli attacks on the villages of Aita al-Shaab, Kfar Kila, and Jebbayn.

Security and support in the South: French-Lebanese military meeting in Paris focuses on Lebanese army needs

LBCI/April 20/2024
French-Lebanese discussions in Paris centered on implementing the UN Resolution 1701 and the reinforcement of the Lebanese army amid potential developments in the South. Lebanese Army Commander General Joseph Aoun brought forward key points from a previous meeting in Rome weeks ago, attended by military leaders from France, Italy, Spain, and Germany, sparking inquiries from French and Italian counterparts who met with General Aoun in Paris. The document presented by General Aoun requested general support for the army, including financial backing for soldiers, logistical support, fuel provisions, and medical supplies. It emphasized that any additional tasks for the Lebanese army and increased troop numbers in the South would require additional international support and funding. Executing tasks and increasing troop numbers in the South necessitates recruiting and training additional soldiers, equipping them, and securing their military and logistical needs, leading to a cost of over $3,000 per volunteer soldier. During the military meeting of the three leaders in Paris, it was agreed to form a tripartite monitoring committee to study the needs and financing, whether for the general needs of the army or the additional requirements for southern Lebanon. General Aoun joined the meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Najib Mikati, where participants reaffirmed their support for the army and discussed how all parties could collaborate in this regard. They also deliberated on the Franco-American vision for implementing Resolution 1701. The meeting, which began between Mikati and Macron at the Elysée Palace, saw Mikati request assistance from the French president in resolving the Syrian refugee file and reconsidering European policies in this area. This included the European Union's announcement of safe zones in Syria to facilitate the return and support of refugees within Syria. Macron pledged to review French policies regarding the refugee issue in Lebanon and to address this matter within the European Union.

South Lebanon: After a Cautious Calm, Israel Targets a House in Kfar Kila

This Is Beirut/April 20/2024
After a cautious calm in the early morning hours of Saturday, a house in Kfar Kila was targeted and one person was wounded, according to preliminary information. Moreover, Israeli warplanes violated Lebanese airspace again, targeting the town of Aita al-Shaab. Simultaneously, alarm sirens sounded in several settlements in the Upper Galilee after suspicions of a drone infiltration, while the Israeli Channel 12 reported that “two rockets launched from Lebanon fell in an open area in the Upper Galilee without causing any casualties.”Additionally, Hezbollah announced that it targeted on Saturday morning “the site of Haddab Yarine with appropriate weapons.”On Friday evening, the Israeli army launched flares over villages in the western and central sectors. This coincided with reconnaissance aircraft flying over border villages adjacent to the Blue Line in the South, reaching the outskirts of the city of Tyre.
Moreover, the airstrike on the town of Mansouri in the Mashaa area Friday afternoon caused extensive damage to property, crops and neighboring houses.

Lebanese Crises and LAF Needs Discussed at the Élysée

This Is Beirut/April 20/2024 
The political crisis in Lebanon and the explosive situation in southern Lebanon, as well as the risk of conflagration in the region, were the focus of French President Emmanuel Macron’s meeting with Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati at the Elysée Palace on Friday. The meeting lasted nearly an hour, after which they were joined by the Commander-in-Chief of the Lebanese Army and Chief of Staff of the French Armed Forces, Generals Joseph Aoun and Thierry Burkhardt. Informed sources quoted by the Markazia agency pointed out that this “positive” meeting was a follow-up to the Rome meeting of March 1 on international aid for the Lebanese Army. The Army’s needs were thus assessed, as they had been in the Italian capital, which will enable the regular forces to implement Security Council Resolution 1701 when the time comes. In Rome, General Aoun “had submitted a study on the logistical and material needs of the troop in light of the challenges it faces” due to the crises that have persisted in Lebanon since 2019. Following this meeting, “the commanders of the French and Italian armies drew up an aid plan for the regular Lebanese forces,” which should be studied by a joint commission. But for this aid to materialize, a ceasefire must first be established in southern Lebanon, and a political decision must be taken to deploy the Army in the southern part of the country, again according to the same sources. The discussions at the Elysée Palace were attended by the latter’s political advisor, Boutros Assaker; President Macron’s advisor on Middle East affairs, Claire Legendre; the director of the Africa and Middle East department at the Quai D’Orsay, Anne Grillo (former French ambassador to Lebanon); and the current French ambassador to Beirut, Hervé Magro. As a reminder, France is an inalienable historical supporter of Lebanon and its Army. Paris has provided material and financial assistance to the Lebanese Army, with an allocation of 5,750,000 euros for the years 2021 to 2023.

Macron says committed to containing Lebanon-Israel violence

Agence France Presse/April 20/2024
French President Emmanuel Macron has told caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati that France would do "everything in its power" to stop violence spiralling between Lebanon and Israel, his office said. Macron told Mikati in Paris that he would "continue to act for Lebanon's stability" to protect it from escalating tensions in the Middle East. The region has been plunged into turmoil since October 7, when Hamas militants launched an attack that allegedly led to the deaths of 1,170 people in southern Israel according to Israeli official figures. Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed at least 34,012 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, the territory's health ministry said on Friday. Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah has engaged in near-daily exchanges of fire with Israel since the war started. There has also been a surge in violence involving Tehran-aligned groups in Iraq, Yemen and Syria.
The specter of a regional war has only been accentuated in the past week following Iran's first direct attack on Israel with hundreds of drones and missiles, and reports of an Israeli retaliation. Macron brought up France's participation in a U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon -- on Israel's northern border -- and "underlined everyone's responsibility towards it," his office added. The French leader also discussed Lebanon's long-running political crisis. Mikati's government holds only limited powers. Lebanese lawmakers have failed to designate a successor to former president Michel Aoun since October 2022 as parliament remains deadlocked between Hezbollah and its opponents.

Military alert in northern Israel: Concerns mount over Iran's proxies as Israeli defense systems prove inadequate
LBCI/April 20/2024
In light of the recent attack on Iran, a palpable silence looms over the Israeli political scene. However, the northern region is witnessing military movements and the deployment of war equipment towards Syria from Tiberias to Mount Hermon.
Israeli reports have revealed heightened alertness by security agencies in this area, anticipating any potential Iranian retaliation, which this time may be executed through Iran's proxies. For the first time, military exercises and preparations include the Israeli Electric Corporation amid reports predicting its targeting among strikes aimed at strategic sites. Despite ongoing concerns regarding infiltration operations, a military report indicated the fall of more than 850 rockets in the Golan Heights and adjacent areas since the start of the Al-Aqsa Flood Operation. Following the failure of missile defense systems to intercept explosive drones that landed in the north in recent days, specifically in Arab al-Aramshe and Beit Hillel, security agencies are exploring ways to counter Hezbollah drones, as it became apparent that Israel's Iron Dome and its defense systems are inadequate against such drone types. This situation has prompted Israeli authorities to contemplate what they describe as a crucial turning point in favor of Hezbollah amidst internal disagreements regarding the fate of the 120,000 Israelis who have fled from the north to other areas. Simultaneously, with renewed concerns along the northern borders, the Rafah invasion resumed after the military revealed its preparations for the operation, despite disputes with Washington over ensuring the security of 1.4 million Palestinians. This comes in exchange for the growing voices calling to refrain from entering Rafah and instead head towards an immediate prisoner exchange deal. As the War Cabinet deliberates on the Rafah matter and receives security and military reports on readiness for the operation, families of prisoners intensify their protests, supported by tens of thousands of Israelis demanding an immediate halt to the war and the rescue of the remaining Israeli prisoners alive in Gaza.

J. Aoun Affirms from Paris the Importance of De-escalation in Southern Lebanon

This Is Beirut/April 20/2024
The French Army Chief of Staff, General Thierry Burkhard, met on Friday with Commander-in-Chief of the Lebanese Army, General Joseph Aoun, and Italian Admiral Giuseppe Cavo Dragone. “Following the military honors ceremony, a discussion took place on the regional tensions facing Lebanon,” reads a joint statement issued by the three officials on Saturday. During the meeting, they mutually “reaffirmed the importance of collective action for de-escalation along the border between Lebanon and Israel, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1701.”
General Thierry Burkhard discussing with Lebanese Commander-in-Chief General Joseph Aoun (on the right of the picture) and Italian Admiral Giuseppe Cavo Dragone. According to the press release, Generals Burkhard and Aoun and Admiral Cavo Dragone underlined “the essential role of UNIFIL as an actor of peace, security, and protection of civilian populations in the region, in close collaboration with the Lebanese Army, sovereign over the whole territory.”The three leaders also reiterated their support for the Lebanese Army, as it is a “patron of national stability.” “France and Italy’s commitment to Lebanon’s sovereignty remains a priority,” reads the statement. Commenting on the meeting, General Burkhard said he was honored to have received his Lebanese and Italian counterparts on Friday. “We renew our collective efforts for regional stability through UNIFIL and support for the Lebanese armed forces, historic and valuable partnerships,” he wrote on his X account.

TotalEnergies' report delay: Lebanon presses TotalEnergies for report on oil exploration

LBCI/April 20/2024
Six months have passed since the TotalEnergies, Eni, and Qatar Energy consortium announced the completion of the first well drilling in Block 9. TotalEnergies was supposed to submit a report to Lebanon's Petroleum Administration documenting the drilling results, but this report has not yet reached the Lebanese side despite repeated demands.The Energy Ministry affirmed that Lebanon will not remain silent on this matter because they have the right to obtain a report. Ministry sources stated that although there are no legal consequences in the contract regarding the delivery of the report, TotalEnergies must take this step so Lebanon can understand the trajectory of gas and oil exploration in its waters. This is especially crucial as it will impact the acquisition of other blocks. Therefore, the ministry will continue to demand and seek a legal formula to compel TotalEnergies or reach an understanding with the French company to extend the deadline for report submission. Coordination is underway between the Petroleum Administration and Energy Minister Walid Fayad in this regard. Sources in the Energy Ministry expressed the belief that the delay in submitting the report may be related to the political and military situation in the region, particularly the Israel-Hezbollah conflict. It may also be part of pressure tactics in this war. Additionally, the reason could be that the report contains positive indicators regarding the presence of oil and gas, and TotalEnergies does not want the Lebanese side to convey these indicators to other companies. This could incentivize them to participate in the third licensing round, which includes all blocks except Block 9, under better conditions than those offered by TotalEnergies and win work in blocks that TotalEnergies may be interested in.

Joseph Gebeily to LBCI: Lebanese army has crucial role in south Lebanon's stability
LBCI/April 20/2024
Joseph Gebeily, a member of the Executive Committee of the Lebanese Forces and founder of the Lebanese Information Center in Washington, asserted that the Lebanese army's role in stabilizing the southern region will be crucial if a settlement is achieved. He emphasized that the army is the “sole acceptable entity” for all parties involved, highlighting ongoing discussions regarding the redeployment and utilization of military personnel. These discussions, Gebeily noted, necessitate the provision of essential needs and equipment, a matter currently being deliberated by Army Commander General Joseph Aoun abroad. Speaking on LBCI’s "Nharkom Said" TV show, he highlighted the United States' significant role as “Lebanon's leading donor country.” Moreover, he noted that there are exceptions to Lebanon, as the US deals with all Lebanese parties, including the opposition unlike what it does with other countries. Gebeily pointed out that Resolution 1701 was unanimously adopted by the Security Council, and the Lebanese state, including Hezbollah, which acknowledged the resolution in ministerial statements. In addition, he stressed “There is a responsibility on the Lebanese to implement it,” citing a lack of substantial efforts by the Lebanese government to execute it effectively. Regarding the presidential elections, Gebeily revealed three rejections by the Quintet Committee: rejecting envoys not affiliated with the committee, rejecting specific names, and rejecting positions from outside the committee. He clarified that the committee does not deliberate on specifications for the next president.

After the rain: Dubai's response to climate challenges raises concerns for Lebanon's next winter

LBCI/April 20/2024
Although the storm has passed, its impact continues to be felt on the streets of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Traffic on some roads remains disrupted despite authorities' efforts to clear water and clean streets clogged with mud, trees, and submerged vehicles. Dubai authorities swiftly mobilized, and some private or state-owned companies decided to assist in overcoming this crisis. Emaar Properties, of which the Dubai government owns 51%, has committed to repairing all old and new homes within its residential complexes affected by the rains and floods at no cost to residents. Similarly, Damac Properties coordinated with local government authorities to ensure the protection of its communities' residents, deploying tankers to collect floodwater and establishing hotlines to monitor complaints. Meanwhile, Emirates Airlines and Fly Dubai announced the resumption of their regular flight schedule from Dubai International Airport starting Saturday. The climate change, believed to be the cause of this phenomenon that hit Dubai specifically, is the strongest in 75 years to date that may lead to similar occurrences in Lebanon. Last winter, Lebanon experienced two days of rainfall equivalent to the typical amount for a month, resulting in flooding on several roads, notably in Dbayeh, Jal el Dib, and near the Beirut Forum. Neglect and failure to clean the Beirut River's course led to road flooding. With climate change, are our roads and infrastructure ready to handle massive rainfall? Will the state start planning to confront this issue because it is now linked to global climate change? Last time, the damage was minimal. Will the state be prepared before the next rainy season?

Violence will not stop in Middle East until Gaza war ends, senior Hezbollah figure warns
Sky News/April 20, 2024
Violence in the Middle East will not stop until the war in Gaza ends, a senior Hezbollah figure has told Sky News in a world-first interview in which he also castigated the West and scoffed at Israel's actions. Ibrahim Moussawi, a Hezbollah spokesperson, also warned Israel "will see results" if they continue provoking Iran. "Nobody has an interest in going into an open confrontation, comprehensive war in the region, because this might lead to other things. This is not because the Western side has an awakening of humanity or whatever," he said.
Middle East latest - follow live updates
"This is because it doesn't boil down to their interest, it does not suit their policies. "At the same time, we don't want, as well, to have a comprehensive confrontation from our side. But if it is imposed, they see and we will see the kind of results that will unfold."Mr Moussawi added: "If things escalated into a larger scale, everybody has to understand that just like what the West is doing, all of these governments and armies and countries supplying Israel, then the Axis [of Resistance] will fight as an Axis. "I believe if the Israelis put us in a position or any situation where we have to manifest this again, they will see it [Iran and Hezbollah's military capacity]." Speaking about a possible end to hostilities in the region, Mr Moussawi said the responsibility lies with the West. "In order to reach an agreement, they have to stop the aggressor. They have to stop Netanyahu and this bunch of idiots who are in the occupied Palestine to stop their genocidal war. "Then you'll see clearly that the fronts will come down," he said. He also blamed Western countries for escalating the crisis in the region and claimed they are complicit in the humanitarian situation in Gaza. "If you want to see things go into calmness again, go stop the Israeli aggression. You have the way to stop the Israeli aggression," he said. "You know, I know, everybody knows that they wait for the military ammunitions and supplies from the United States, from the West, to continue to kill the children and women in Gaza.
Targeted strike is a message - and Iran's response is telling "No one in the Western governments is ready to stop supplying Israel with ammunitions, and at the same time, they drop what they call a few portions of food on the heads of the people and they kill them, and at the same time they send rockets to Israel to kill them. "This is a complete fiasco - it does not work." Mr Moussawi's comments come after an Israeli strike close to a major military airbase and a nuclear site near the central city of Isfahan this morning. He played down the strikes against Iran, saying he has "never heard of such a thing" and he had "heard it in the news". "My understanding is that the Israelis, up till now, they want to save their face," he said.

Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 20-21/2024
New Iran Oil Sanctions Passed by US House in Foreign Aid Package
Ari Natter/Bloomberg/April 20, 2024
The US House passed new sanctions on Iran’s oil sector set to become part of a foreign-aid package, putting the measure on track to pass the Senate within days. The legislation would broaden sanctions against Iran to include foreign ports, vessels, and refineries that knowingly process or ship Iranian crude in violation of existing US sanctions. It would also would expand so-called secondary sanctions to cover all transactions between Chinese financial institutions and sanctioned Iranian banks used to purchase petroleum and oil-derived products. The legislation, which is set to be included in a $95 billion package providing funding for aiding Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, passed by a vote of 360-58 on Saturday. It was pre-negotiated with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and the White House said it supports it. About 80% of Iran’s roughly 1.5 million barrels of daily oil exports are shipped to independent refineries in China known as “teapots,” according to a summary of similar legislation. While the sanctions could impact Iranian petroleum exports — and add as much as $8.40 to the price of a barrel of crude — they also include presidential waiver authorities, according to ClearView Energy Partners, a Washington-based consulting firm. “President Joe Biden might opt to invoke these authorities, vitiating the sanctions’ price impact; a second Trump Administration might not,” ClearView wrote in a note to clients. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in October rejected a widely-held notion that the US had gradually relaxed some sanctions enforcement on Iranian oil sales as part of efforts for a diplomatic rapprochement.

US House Passes Bills to Aid Ukraine, Bolster Taiwan
AFP/This Is Beirut/Sat, April 20, 2024
The US House of Representatives approved a major aid package on Saturday for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, as well as a possible ban on the social network TikTok.
Lawmakers in the US House of Representatives quickly passed legislation on Saturday to provide aid to Ukraine and Israel and bolster Taiwan, while also threatening a ban on TikTok if it fails to divest from Beijing. The bills, passed in a rare Saturday session, were approved by overwhelming bipartisan votes, though they leave the future of House Speaker Mike Johnson in doubt as he seeks to fend off angry far-right detractors. The bills are the product of months of acrimonious negotiations, pressure from US allies, and repeated pleas for assistance from Zelensky. Spending bills cost the last Republican speaker of the House his job, and funding for Ukraine has been at the heart of the partisan squabbling. The United States has been the chief military backer of Ukraine in its war against Russia, but Congress has not approved large-scale funding for its ally for nearly a year and a half, mainly because of the cross-aisle bickering.
$61 Billion for Ukraine
President Joe Biden and Democratic lawmakers in Congress have been pushing for a major new weapons package for Ukraine for months. But Republicans, influenced by the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, have been reluctant to provide funding to Kyiv for the drawn-out conflict. The financing of the war has become a point of contention ahead of a presidential election in November that is expected to pit Biden against Trump once again. Johnson, after months of hesitation, finally threw his support behind the $61 billion package for Ukraine, which includes economic assistance and weapons. Writing on social media after the bill was passed, Ukraine’s Zelensky expressed hope that the bill would soon clear the US Senate and be signed into law by Biden. “Thank you, America!” he added. The bill also allows Biden to confiscate and sell Russian assets and provide the money to Ukraine to finance reconstruction, a move that has been embraced by other G7 nations. The upper chamber could take the bill up as early as Tuesday, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said.
The World Is Watching
At the request of President Joe Biden, some $8 billion under one bill would be used to counter China through investment in submarine infrastructure and boosting competition with Beijing on projects built in developing countries. Several billion dollars would be devoted to weapons for Taiwan, the self-ruled island that is claimed by China. The first of the bills passed on Saturday would force TikTok to divest from its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, or face a nationwide ban in the United States, where it has around 170 million users. Western officials have voiced alarm over the popularity of TikTok with young people, alleging that it is subservient to Beijing and a conduit to spread propaganda — claims denied by the company. A total of $13 billion in military assistance has been allocated for America’s historic ally Israel in its war against Hamas in Gaza. The money will essentially be used to reinforce Israel’s Iron Dome air defenses. More than $9 billion will be earmarked to address “the dire need for humanitarian assistance for Gaza as well as other vulnerable populations around the world,” the legislation says. US allies are expected to warmly welcome passage of the bills in the House, but it could cost the Republican House speaker his job.A handful of far-right isolationist Republican lawmakers have warned they may oust Johnson for supporting the bills.
**Camille Camdessus, with AFP

Israel and Iran's apparent strikes and counterstrikes give new insights into both militaries
WASHINGTON (AP)/Sat, April 20, 2024
Israel demonstrated its military dominance over adversary Iran in its apparent precision strikes that hit near military and nuclear targets deep in the heart of the country, meeting little significant challenge from Iran's defenses and providing the world with new insights into both militaries' capabilities. nThe international community, Israel and Iran all signaled hopes that Friday's airstrikes would end what has been a dangerous 19-day run of strikes and counterstrikes, a highly public test between two deep rivals that had previously stopped short of most direct confrontation. The move into open fighting began April 1 with the suspected Israeli killing of Iranian generals at an Iranian diplomatic compound in Syria. That prompted Iran's retaliatory barrage last weekend of more than 300 missiles and drones that the U.S., Israel and regional and international partners helped bat down without significant damage in Israel. And then came Friday's apparent Israeli strike. As all sides took stock, regional security experts predicted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government and the country's allies would emerge encouraged by the Israeli military’s superior performance. In response to international appeals, however, both Israel and Iran had appeared to be holding back their full military force throughout the more than two weeks of hostilities, aiming to send messages rather than escalate to a full-scale war. Crucially, experts also cautioned that Iran had not brought into the main battle its greatest military advantage over Israel — Hezbollah and other Iran-allied armed groups in the region. Hezbollah in particular is capable of straining Israel’s ability to defend itself, especially in any multifront conflict. Overall, “the big-picture lesson to take away is that unless Iran does absolutely everything at its disposal all at once, it is just the David, and not the Goliath, in this equation,” said Charles Lister, a senior fellow and longtime regional researcher at the Washington-based Middle East Institute. Aside from those Iranian proxy forces, “the Israelis have every single advantage on every single military level,” Lister said.
In Friday’s attack, Iranian state television said the country's air defense batteries fired in several provinces following reports of drones. Iranian army commander Gen. Abdolrahim Mousavi said crews targeted several flying objects. Lister said it appeared to have been a single mission by a small number of Israeli aircraft. After crossing Syrian airspace, it appears they fired only two or three Blue Sparrow air-to-surface missiles into Iran, most likely from a standoff position in the airspace of Iran's neighbor Iraq, he said. Iran said its air defenses fired at a major air base near Isfahan. Isfahan also is home to sites associated with Iran’s nuclear program, including its underground Natanz enrichment site, which has been repeatedly targeted by suspected Israeli sabotage attacks. Israel has not taken responsibility for either the April 1 or Friday strikes.
The Jewish Institute for National Security of America, a Washington-based center that promotes Israeli-U.S. security ties, quickly pointed out that Friday's small strike underscored that Israel could do much more damage “should it decide to launch a larger strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.”Iran's barrage last weekend, by contrast, appears to have used up most of its 150 long-range ballistic missiles capable of reaching Israel, more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) away, said retired Gen. Frank McKenzie, former commander of the U.S. military's Central Command. Especially given the distance involved and how easy it is for the U.S. and others to track missile deployments by overhead space sensors and regional radar, “it is hard for Iran to generate a bolt from the blue against Israel,” McKenzie said. Israelis, for their part, have "shown that Israel can now hit Iran from its soil with missiles, maybe even drones,” said Alex Vatanka, director of the Iran program at the Middle East Institute. Iran's performance Friday, meanwhile, may have raised doubts about its ability to defend against such an attack, Vatanka said. Iran is about 80 times the size of Israel and thus has much more territory to defend, he noted.
Plus, Israel demonstrated that it can rally support from powerful regional and international countries, both Arab and Western, to defend against Iran. The U.S. led in helping Israel knock down Iran's missile and drone attack on April 13. Jordan and Gulf countries are believed to have lent varying degrees of assistance, including in sharing information about incoming strikes. The two weeks of hostilities also provided the biggest showcase yet of the growing ability of Israel to work with Arab nations, its previous enemies, under the framework of U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. forces in the Middle East. The U.S. under the Trump administration moved responsibility for its military coordination with Israel into Central Command, which already hosted U.S. military coordination with Arab countries. The Biden administration has worked to deepen the relationship.But while the exchange of Israeli-Iran strikes revealed more about Iran's military abilities, Lebanon-based Hezbollah and other Iranian-allied armed groups in Iraq and Syria largely appeared to stay on the sidelines.
Hezbollah is one of the most powerful militaries in the region, with tens of thousands of experienced fighters and a massive weapons arsenal. After an intense war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006 that killed more than a thousand Lebanese civilians and dozens of Israeli civilians, both sides have held back from escalating to another full-scale conflict. But Israeli and Hezbollah militaries still routinely fire across each other's borders during the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. Hezbollah “is Iran's only remaining potential advantage in this whole broader equation,” Lister said. Six months of fighting in Gaza have “completely stretched” Israel's military, he said. “If Hezbollah went all out and launched the vast majority of its rocket and missile arsenal at Israel, all at once, the Israelis would seriously struggle to deal with that.”And in terms of ground forces, if Hezbollah suddenly opened a second front, the Israel Defense Forces “would be incapable at this point” of fighting full-on with both Hezbollah and Hamas, he said.

Iran, Israel appear to pull back from brink as Gaza bombed again
AFP/April 20, 2024
TEHRAN: Iran has dismissed as akin to child’s play Israel’s reported retaliation for an unprecedented Iranian strike, as both sides on Saturday appeared to step back from wider conflict stemming from the war in Gaza. However, a deadly blast at an Iraqi military base emphasized the high tensions which persist in the region, as did more deadly Israeli strikes in Gaza and intensifying clashes in the West Bank. Fears have soared this month that escalating tit-for-tat attacks between Israel and Iran could tip over into a broader war in the Middle East. Israel had warned it would hit back after Iran launched more than 300 missiles and drones a week ago in its first-ever direct attack on its arch enemy’s territory. The Iran attack was itself in retaliation for an air strike — widely blamed on Israel — that levelled the Iranian consulate in Damascus and killed seven Revolutionary Guards on April 1. The Israeli retaliation appeared to come on Friday, when Iranian media reported blasts in the central province of Isfahan. Fars news agency reported “three explosions” close to Qahjavarestan, near Isfahan airport and the 8th Shekari army air base. “What happened last night was no attack,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told NBC News. “It was the flight of two or three quadcopters, which are at the level of toys that our children use in Iran,” he added. “As long as there is no new adventure on behalf of the Israeli regime against Iran’s interests, we will have no response.”Israeli officials have made no public comment on what — according to a senior US congressional source who spoke to AFP — were retaliatory Israeli strikes against Iran. Sanam Vakil, director of the Middle East and North Africa program at Britain’s Chatham House think tank, said the reported Israeli strike had been “calibrated to avoid damage and further Iranian aggression.” Iranian political expert Hamid Gholamzadeh said the incident in Isfahan, while “insignificant,” needs to be seen in the context of the “fight for balance of power” between the two countries. “The region is on fire and an all-out war can be ignited any moment,” he said. While tensions rose after the attack on Iran’s consulate, violence involving Iran-backed groups had already been surging across the Middle East since the outbreak of the Gaza war. Officials in Iraq said one person was killed and eight wounded in an explosion at a military base south of Baghdad housing a coalition of pro-Iranian armed groups.There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Since the Gaza war began, violence has also flared in the other occupied Palestinian territory, the West Bank. The Israeli army said Saturday that its forces killed 10 militants and arrested eight other people during a 40-hour raid on a refugee camp in the northern West Bank.
The Palestinian health ministry said 11 people were wounded in the Israeli raid, including a paramedic who was shot trying to get to the wounded. Israel has faced growing global opposition over its military offensive in Gaza, which has reduced vast areas of the besieged Palestinian territory to rubble, while aids groups have warned the north is on the brink of famine. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is under pressure over the rising civilian toll, needs “further escalation and another war to distract the world attention” away from suffering in Gaza, Iranian analyst Gholamzadeh said. There have been particular fears about Israel’s intention to send troops into the southernmost city of Rafah, where most of the population is now sheltering having fled violence elsewhere. Foreign ministers of the G7 group of developed economies, meeting in Italy on Friday, said they opposed a “full-scale military operation in Rafah” because it would have “catastrophic consequences” for civilians.
But even without a full operation, the city has been under regular bombardment.
On Saturday, Gaza’s Civil Defense agency said an overnight Israeli strike in Rafah killed nine members of a family including six children. Agency spokesman Mahmud Bassal said the Israeli army had also hit several other areas of Rafah overnight, adding: “It has been a very hard night.”
The war was triggered by an attack on Israel by Hamas on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures. Israel has responded with a retaliatory offensive that has killed at least 34,049 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the latest toll from the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory. Israel’s military said it struck dozens of militant targets over the past day, including the site in north Gaza from which a rocket was fired into the Israeli city of Sderot. Witnesses in the central Nuseirat refugee camp said the Israeli army told them to evacuate one home, then several were destroyed. “They instruct us to evacuate and return later, but where do we go back? To ruins?” asked resident Abu Ibrahim.
“How long will this farce continue?“
A UN report on Friday said “multiple obstacles” continue to impede delivery of urgently needed aid. Despite some recent aid convoys being able to reach Gaza, the WFP cited “the real possibility of famine” in the north. Efforts to seal a long sought-after truce have stalled, according to mediator Qatar. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a staunch critic of Israel’s war in Gaza, met with Qatar-based Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Saturday, calling for unity among Palestinians. After Washington vetoed a Palestinian bid to become a full UN member state earlier this week, president Mahmud Abbas said his West Bank-based Palestinian Authority would “reconsider” its relationship with the US.

Israel's Iran attack carefully calibrated after internal splits, US pressure
Samia Nakhoul, Parisa Hafezi and James Mackenzie
DUBAI/JERUSALEM (Reuters)/April 20, 2024
Israel's apparent strike on Iran after days of vacillation was small and appeared calibrated to dial back risks of a major war, even if the sheer fact it happened at all shattered a taboo of direct attacks that Tehran broke days earlier. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's war cabinet had initially approved plans for a strike on Monday night inside Iranian territory to respond forcefully to last Saturday's missile and drones from Iran, but held back at the last-minute, three sources with knowledge of the situation said. By then, the sources said, the three voting members of the war cabinet had already ruled out the most drastic response - a strike on strategic sites including Iran's nuclear facilities whose destruction would almost certainly provoke a wider regional conflict.
Israel launches strike on Iran
Facing cabinet divisions and strong warnings from partners including the United States and in the Gulf not to escalate, and aware of the need to keep international opinion on Israel's side, the plans to hit back were then postponed twice, the sources said. Two war cabinet meetings were also delayed twice, government officials said. Netanyahu's office did not respond to requests for comment for this story. Before the attack, a spokesperson for the government's National Public Diplomacy Directorate cited Netanyahu as saying Israel would defend itself in whatever way it judged appropriate. Reuters spoke to a dozen sources in Israel, Iran and in the Gulf region, as well as the United States, who described six frantic days of efforts in the Gulf, the U.S. and among some of Israel's war planners to limit the response to Iran's first ever direct attack on its arch rival after decades of shadow war.
"We warned against the grave danger inherent in further escalation," Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told Reuters, saying a wider regional conflict would have catastrophic consequences and risked diverting global attention from Israel's ongoing war in Gaza. Safadi said his country, which borders Israel, had "made it clear to all it will not be a battleground for Israel and Iran. This firm position was unequivocally delivered to all." Most of the sources asked not to be named to speak about sensitive matters. The eventual strike on Friday appeared to target a Iranian Air Force base near the city of Isfahan, deep inside the country and close enough to nuclear facilities to send a message of Israel's reach but without using airplanes, ballistic missiles, striking any strategic sites or causing major damage. Iran said its defense systems shot down three drones over a base near Isfahan early on Friday. Israel said nothing about the incident. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States had not been involved in any offensive operations,
An Iranian official told Reuters there were signs the drones were launched from within Iran by "infiltrators," which could obviate the need for retaliation. A source familiar with western intelligence assessments of the incident also said initial evidence suggested Israel launched drones from inside Iranian territory. Iran's foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment. "Israel tried to calibrate between the need to respond and a desire not to enter into a cycle of action and counter reaction that would just escalate endlessly," said Itamar Rabinovich, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington. He described the situation as a dance, with both parties signaling to each other their intentions and next steps. "There is huge relief across the Gulf region. It looks like the attack was limited and proportionate and caused limited damage. I see it a de-esclation," veteran Saudi analyst Abdelrahman al-Rashed told Reuters.
Biden calls Israeli leaders
The decision to hold back from broader and immediate action this week underlined the competing pressures on Netanyahu's government in the aftermath of the more than 300 drones and ballistic and cruise missiles fired by Iran on Saturday night.
As Iran's barrage unfolded, two members of the war cabinet, Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, both former armed forces commanders, wanted to respond straight away before agreeing to hold off following a call with U.S. President Joe Biden and in the face of differing views from other ministers, two Israeli officials with knowledge of the situation said. A spokesman for Gantz, a centrist who joined Netanyahu's emergency government following the Hamas-led attack on Israel last October, did not respond to a request for comment. The U.S. State Department declined to comment to questions about Israel's decision-making. Washington was working to de-escalate tensions, Blinken said on Friday. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Aryeh Deri, the head of one of the ultra Orthodox parties in Netanyahu's coalition, who has observer status in the war cabinet and who has generally been wary of drastic moves, was firmly opposed to an immediate strike against Iran, which he believed could endanger the people of Israel given the risk of escalation, a spokesperson for his party said. "We should also be listening to our partners, to our friends in the world. I say this clearly: I see no shame or weakness in doing so," Deri told the "Haderech" newspaper. Israel's options ranged from strikes on strategic Iranian facilities, including nuclear sites or Revolutionary Guards bases, to covert operations, targeted assassinations and cyber attacks on strategic industrial plants and nuclear facilities, analysts and former officials in Israel have said. Gulf countries had been increasingly worried the situation would spill into "a grave regional conflagration which might be beyond anyone’s control or ability to contain," said Abdelaziz al-Sagher, head of the Saudi-based Gulf Research Center. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had publicly called for maximum "self-restraint" to spare the region from a wider war.
Sagher said Gulf countries had warned the United States of the risk of escalation, arguing Israel should conduct only a limited attack without casualties or significant damage that could provoke a major reprisal. This messaging "was relayed forcefully" in the last few days by the Jordanians, Saudis, and Qataris through direct security and diplomatic channels, one senior regional intelligence source said. The governments of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE did not immediately respond to requests for comment. By Thursday, four diplomatic and government sources in the region were expressing confidence that the response would be limited and proportionate. Ahead of the overnight Israeli strike, one regional source, who had been briefed on Israel's thinking, said the response would aim to minimize or completely avoid casualties and was likely to target a military base. Flying F-35 fighter jets from Israel to Iran, or launching missiles from Israel would almost certainly violate the airspace of neighboring countries, angering Arab states who Netanyahu has long sought to cultivate as strategic allies, said a Gulf government source with knowledge of the issues. He couldn't "just fly F-35 fighter jets across the region and bomb Iran or its nuclear sites," the source said. Iranian officials had warned a major Israeli attack would trigger immediate retaliation. Iran's options to respond included shutting down the Strait of Hormuz through which about a fifth of the world's oil passes, urging proxies to hit Israeli or U.S. interests, and deploying previously unused missiles, a senior Iranian official said. While satisfying Israel's moderates at home, its neighbors and international partners, the measured strike, when it came, was met with dismay from hardliners in Netanyahu's cabinet. National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, whose ultranationalist party is a key prop in Netanyahu's coalition, posted a single word on X, “Feeble." Additional reporting by Reuters reporter, Dan Williams and Andrew MacAskill in Jerusalem, Suleiman Al-Khalidi in Amman, Maha El Dahan in Dubai, Humeyra Pamuk, Simon Lewis and Steve Holland in Washington
*This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Israel's Iran attack dialed back after pressure from US

Calls for calm after reported Israeli strike on Iran
Agence France Presse/April 20, 2024
World leaders have appealed for calm after reported Israeli retaliation against Iran added to months of tense spillover from the war in Gaza, with Iranian state media reporting explosions in a central province.Israeli officials made no public comment on the attack and Iranian officials played down its significance. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Israeli micro-drones used in the operation had caused no deaths or damage, dismissing it as a "desperate attempt to make a victory out of their repeated defeats". But the specter of direct hostilities between the Middle East arch-foes rattled world markets with prices of oil, gold and equities seesawing. Israel had warned it would hit back after Iran fired hundreds of missiles and drones almost a week ago in retaliation for a deadly April 1 air strike -- widely blamed on Israel -- that levelled the Iranian consulate in Damascus and killed seven Revolutionary Guards. A senior U.S. Congressional source told AFP there had been retaliatory Israeli strikes but declined to provide any details, saying they were classified. After state television said explosions were heard near the city of Isfahan, Iran activated its air defence systems over several cities, official media reported.
An unidentified Israeli official told The Washington Post the "strike" was retaliation for Iran's drone and missile barrage and was intended to signal that Israel was able to hit inside Iran. Iran's Tasnim news agency, citing "informed sources", denied that Iran had been attacked from outside. "Contrary to the rumours and claims" made in foreign media, "there are no reports of an attack from abroad", Tasnim said. Three Iranian officials told The New York Times that small drones carried out the "attack", possibly launched from inside Iran, and that radar had not detected unidentified aircraft entering Iranian airspace.
Fars news agency reported "three explosions" close to Qahjavarestan, near Isfahan airport and the 8th Shekari army airbase. Iran's space agency spokesman Hossein Dalirian said there was "a failed and humiliating attempt to fly quadcopters, which were shot down". There were "no reports of a missile attack", Dalirian said on social media platform X. "Reports indicate there was no major damage or large explosions caused by the impact of any air threat," the official IRNA news agency said.
Nuclear sites undamaged
Iran's army commander-in-chief Abdolrahim Mousavi attributed Friday's explosions to "the firing of anti-aircraft defence systems on a suspicious object". Nuclear facilities in Isfahan were reported to be "completely secure", Tasnim said, and the U.N.'s atomic watchdog confirmed "no damage" to Iran's nuclear sites.Washington received advance notice of Israel's reported strike, but did not endorse it or play any part in its execution, US media quoted officials as saying. President Joe Biden had promised "ironclad" support for Israel, but also urged it to "think carefully and strategically" before launching a response against Iran that could trigger a wider war. An Israeli strike on Syrian army position was also reported on Friday, while an "explosion" hit an Iraqi base overnight. Outside of Baghdad, several people were wounded in a blast at a military base housing an Iran-backed coalition, security sources said early Saturday. Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces, or Hashed al-Shaabi, said the "explosion" had inflicted material losses and injuries, without specifying how many. There was no immediate claim of responsibility and the US military denied reports it had any involvement.
'Dangerous cycle of retaliation'
Last weekend, Iran launched its first-ever attack directly targeting Israel.
With the help of the United States and other allies, Israel intercepted most of the more than 300 missiles and drones it said Iran had launched. Minor damage and no deaths resulted. Iran said its attack was in retaliation for the April 1 strike on its Damascus consulate. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been under international pressure over the civilian toll in Gaza's war, and an analyst said the consulate strike allowed Israel to take the focus off Gaza. However, foreign ministers of the G7 group of developed economies, meeting in Italy on Friday, kept up that pressure. The group said they opposed a "full-scale military operation in Rafah", where most of Gaza's population is sheltering, because it would have "catastrophic consequences" for civilians. Mediators have acknowledged that negotiations for a truce in Gaza were stalling, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to be trying his luck and will meet Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Saturday to discuss the conflict.
'Space to climb down'
U.N. chief Antonio Guterres has called for an end to "the dangerous cycle of retaliation" in the Middle East, his spokesman said. Analysts said further tit-for-tat violence could be avoided. Sanam Vakil, director of the Middle East and North Africa programme at Britain's Chatham House think tank, said the reported Israeli strike had been "calibrated to avoid damage and further Iranian aggression". "As long as Iran continues to deny the attack and deflect attention from it and no further hits are seen, there is space for both sides to climb down the escalation ladder for now," he said. Nomi Bar Yaacov, associate fellow of the think tank's international security programme, said the attack had been "carried out in a manner that will allow Iran to deny the attack and draw a line under it". On Tehran's streets, some called for peace. "We are against war," said Behrouz, 71, a retired firefighter who did not give his surname. "We are not happy with the killing of people, whether they are Iranians, Israelis or Gazans."

Deadly blast at Iraq army base amid Israel-Iran tensions

AFP/Sat, April 20, 2024
Iraq's Popular Mobilisation Forces, an official security force, said its command post at Kalso military base about 50 km south of Baghdad was hit by a huge explosion late on Friday, and two security sources said it resulted from an air strike. One person was killed and eight wounded in an overnight explosion at an Iraqi military base housing a coalition of pro-Iranian armed groups, officials said Saturday. The explosion hit the Kalsu military base in Babylon province south of Baghdad, where Iraq's Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), or Hashed al-Shaabi, is stationed. It comes days after Iran launched an unprecedented assault on Israel which reportedly responded with a drone strike on the Islamic republic, amid tensions fuelled by the Gaza war. The Iraqi security forces media unit said "an explosion and a fire" hit the Kalsu base in the early hours of Saturday, leaving one person dead and eight wounded. Air defence command reported "no drones or combat aircraft in the airspace of Babylon province before or during the explosion", it added in a statement. An interior ministry official had initially reported an "aerial bombing" on the site. In a statement, Hashed al-Shaabi said an "explosion" had inflicted "material losses" and casualties, without giving a number. The group confirmed its premises on the military base had been hit and that investigators had been sent to the site. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.Responding to questions from AFP, the security sources did not say who may have been behind the attack.

Israeli troops raid West Bank refugee camp, Gaza fighting continues
Ali Sawafta and Nidal al-Mughrabi/Reuters/April 20, 2024
NUR SHAMS, West Bank (Reuters) -Israeli forces fought Palestinian militants in the occupied West Bank on Saturday in the second day of a raid that has so far left at least two people dead, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, while fighting also continued in Gaza. Israeli forces launched the raid on the Nur Shams area, near the Palestinian city of Tulkarm, on Friday. A number of militants were killed and more arrested, the Israeli military said, and at least four soldiers were wounded in fire exchanges. Tulkarm Brigades group, which includes militants from numerous Palestinian factions, said its fighters were still exchanging fire with Israeli forces on Saturday. At least three drones were seen hovering above Nur Shams, where Israeli military vehicles were massed and bursts of gunfire were heard. In Gaza, Israeli strikes hit the southern city of Rafah, where over one million Palestinians are sheltering, as well as Al-Nuseirat in central Gaza, where at least five houses were destroyed, and the Al-Jabalia area in the north, health officials and Hamas media said. The Israeli military said troops were carrying out raids in central Gaza, where they were engaged in close quarter combat with Palestinian fighters. Overall, Israeli strikes in Gaza killed 37 Palestinians and wounded 68 over the past 24 hours, Palestinian health authorities said. Fighting has continued in Gaza despite the withdrawal of most of Israel's combat forces earlier this month from southern areas. Rafah is the last Gaza area that Israeli ground forces have not entered in a more than six-month war aimed at eliminating the Islamist Hamas group that rules the enclave, following the Hamas attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has faced wide international opposition to the plan to attack Rafah, where the military says the last remaining organised brigades of Hamas are located and where the remaining 133 Israeli hostages are believed to be held. The Gaza war has overshadowed continuing violence in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, including regular army raids on militant groups, rampages by Jewish settlers in Palestinian villages, and street attacks by Palestinians on Israelis. The Palestinian Health Ministry has confirmed the deaths of two people since Friday in Nur Shams, an area that houses refugees from the 1948 war and their descendants. One fatality was identified by Palestinian sources as a gunman. The second was a 16-year-old schoolboy, according to Palestinian officials. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the United States for effectively stopping the United Nations from recognising a Palestinian state by casting a veto this week in the Security Council. In an interview with the official Palestinian news agency WAFA, Abbas said the Palestinian Authority would reconsider bilateral relations with the United States. The West Bank and Gaza are among the territories that the Palestinians seek for an independent state. U.S.-brokered peace talks broke down a decade ago

Thousands of Israelis join anti-government protests calling for new elections
Rami Amichay/Reuters/April 20, 2024
Thousands of Israeli demonstrators took to the streets on Saturday to call for new elections and demand more action from the government to bring the hostages held in Gaza home, in the latest round of protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The protests have continued as the war in Gaza moves through its seventh month and amid growing anger over the government's approach to the 133 Israeli hostages still held by the Islamist movement Hamas. Surveys indicate that most Israelis blame Netanyahu for the security failures that led to the devastating attack by Hamas fighters on communities in southern Israel on Oct. 7. Israel's longest-serving prime minister has repeatedly ruled out early elections, which opinion polls suggest he would lose, saying that to go to the polls in the middle of a war would only reward Hamas. "We're here to protest against this government that keeps dragging us down, month after month; before October 7th, after October 7th. We kept going down in a spiral," said Yalon Pikman, 58, who attended a march in Tel Aviv. Hamas-led gunmen seized 253 people during the Oct. 7 attack that killed around 1,200, according to Israeli tallies. Some hostages were freed in a November truce, but efforts to secure another deal appear to have stalled. Netanyahu has pledged to continue the Israeli campaign in Gaza, which local health authorities say has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, until all the hostages are brought home and Hamas has been destroyed. Last week's attack on Israel by waves of Iranian drones and missiles shifted attention from the conflict in Gaza and for many relatives of the remaining hostages there is a growing feeling that time is running out. "My mother is really strong. She's holding us together," said Sharone Lifschitz, 52, whose 85 year-old mother, Yocheved Lifshitz, was among the hostages released in November but whose father, Oded, remains in captivity. "But as time passes, the weight of what is happening - the way that those who could have returned them failed to return them - the sheer weight of that is weighing more and more on her shoulders. And her hope, too, is diminishing."

Blinken to press China over its support for Russian defense base
Simon Lewis and Michael Martina/Reuters/April 20, 2024
The U.S. is prepared to act against Chinese companies supporting Russia's war in Ukraine, a senior U.S. official told reporters, highlighting it as an issue Secretary of State Antony Blinken will raise on his trip to China next week. U.S. officials have warned in increasingly stark terms about what they say is China's assistance in retooling and resupplying Russia's defense industrial base after early setbacks in its invasion of Ukraine, saying that continued support is a top risk to stable relations between Washington and Beijing. Briefing reporters ahead of Blinken's planned visit to Shanghai and Beijing from April 24-26, the senior State Department official said U.S.-China relations were "in a different place" than a year ago, when ties had sunk to a historic low point after the U.S. downed a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon. But calmer relations did not mean the U.S. would sacrifice its capacity to strengthen alliances and defend its interests, the official said. "We're prepared to take steps when we believe necessary against firms that ... severely undermine security in both Ukraine and Europe," the official said when asked what leverage Washington had to convince Beijing to stop aiding the Russian war effort.
"We've demonstrated our willingness to do so regarding firms from a number of countries, not just China," the official said, noting that Russia had bolstered its weapons-producing capacity with China's help. "We will express our intent to have China curtail that support," the official said. Blinken's visit will be his first to China since June, when the United States was trying to restore high-level engagements that Beijing began curtailing after a 2022 trip by then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, the democratically governed island China claims as its territory.
The U.S. has been bracing for Taiwan's May 20 presidential inauguration and will urge restraint by Beijing even as China's military has ramped up activity near the island. "You can expect that the Secretary will underscore both in private and public America's abiding interest in maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," the official said. Taiwan's government rejects China's sovereignty claims, and the U.S. is the island's most important international backer despite maintaining only unofficial ties. Blinken will also raise the crisis in the Middle East, China's provocations in the South China Sea, the crisis in Myanmar and North Korea's "threatening rhetoric and reckless actions," the official said, downplaying the prospect of breakthroughs on any of the issues. Senior State Department officials – including its top narcotics official Todd Robinson – will join the trip. They are expected to discuss efforts to curb the flow of deadly fentanyl chemicals from China to the U.S. The U.S. and China launched a joint counter-narcotics working group in January. But a U.S. congressional committee said this week that China's government was directly subsidizing production of illicit fentanyl precursors for sale abroad and fueling the U.S. opioid crisis. The official did not answer a question on the alleged subsidies. China says it is cracking down on fentanyl and precursor chemicals, but it also says the U.S. crisis is a problem of demand, not supply. Critics in Washington argue the Biden administration has not put enough pressure on Beijing over fentanyl-related substances, which are the leading cause drug of overdoses in the United States.

Israeli Army Kills 10 Militants in West Bank Raid
AFP/This Is Beirut/April 20/2024
The Israeli army said Saturday that its security forces killed 10 militants in an ongoing raid around Nur Shams, a refugee camp in the north of the occupied West Bank. “Security forces eliminated 10 terrorists during encounters” over more than 40 hours, the army said in a statement. The army said eight soldiers and a police officer had been injured in the raid. An AFP journalist in nearby Tulkarem heard gunshots and blasts coming from Nur Shams on Saturday. Residents contacted by AFP said there was a power outage and food was running short in the camp, saying nobody was allowed to enter or leave.

Haniyeh heads to Turkey: Has Hamas become a political burden for Qatar?
LBCI/April 20, 2024
In a strategically timed move, Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh arrived in Istanbul. Haniyeh's visit coincides with discussions held by the Egyptian Foreign Minister in Turkey, overshadowed by developments in Gaza. Additionally, it follows Qatar's announcement of reevaluating its role as a mediator in the Israeli-Hamas prisoner exchange talks. This declaration prompted criticism from some US politicians, who accused Qatar of insufficient pressure on Hamas to release hostages, with some even calling for severing ties with the movement. Has Hamas become a political burden for Qatar? According to exclusive information from The Wall Street Journal, Hamas' political leadership is reportedly seeking a new host country for relocation amidst pressures faced by Qatar. Could Haniyeh's visit to Turkey, a week after meeting with the Qatari and Turkish foreign ministers, be linked to this development? Turkey, a key ally of Qatar and a supporter of Hamas as a liberation movement seeks to play a more significant negotiating role in the region. However, Qatar, acting as a mediator, has yet to announce a breakthrough in the ongoing negotiations. Should negotiations reach an impasse, Turkey may emerge as the frontrunner to host Hamas' political leadership. Egypt, due to its internal conflict with the Muslim Brotherhood, is considered an unlikely option, while Oman is also speculated to be among the possibilities.

Erdogan Urges Palestinian Unity After Meeting Hamas Chief
AFP/This Is Beirut/April 20, 2024
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on the Palestinians on Saturday to “unite” against Israel, at the end of his meeting with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Istanbul. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Palestinians to unite amid Israel’s war in Gaza following hours-long talks with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh in Istanbul on Saturday, his office said. Erdogan has sought but failed to establish a foothold as a mediator in the Gaza conflict that has roiled the Middle East since October 7. Tensions in the region are running high as the Hamas-run Palestinian territory braces for a new Israeli offensive and a reported Israeli attack on Iran. Erdogan called on Palestinians to unite following the talks at the Dolmabahce palace, on the banks of the Bosphorus strait, that Turkish media reports said lasted more than two and a half hours. “It is vital that Palestinians act with unity in this process. The strongest response to Israel and the path to victory lie in unity and integrity,” Erdogan said according to a Turkish presidency statement. Hamas, designated a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, and Israel, is a rival of the Fatah faction that rules the semi-autonomous Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank. As soaring tensions between Iran and Israel stoke fears of a wider regional war, Erdogan said recent events should not allow Israel to “gain ground and that it is important to act in a way that keeps attention on Gaza.”
Close Ties with Haniyeh
With Qatar saying it will reassess its role as a mediator between Hamas and Israel, Erdogan sent Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan to Doha on Wednesday in a new sign that he wants a role. “Even if only I, Tayyip Erdogan, remain, I will continue, as long as God gives me my life, to defend the Palestinian struggle and to be the voice of the oppressed Palestinian people,” the president said on Wednesday when he announced Haniyeh’s visit. Hamas has had an office in Turkey since 2011, when Turkey helped secure the agreement for the group to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Erdogan has maintained links with Haniyeh, who has been a frequent visitor. Fidan was a past head of Turkish intelligence, and the country provided information and passports to Hamas officials, including Haniyeh, according to Sinan Ciddi, a Turkey specialist at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington. However, this has never been confirmed by the Turkish authorities.
Erdogan Slams Israel
If Qatar withdraws from mediation efforts, Turkey could seek to increase its mediation profile based on its Hamas links. Fidan held talks with visiting Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on Saturday, with both men emphasizing the need to deliver more humanitarian aid to devastated Gaza, where the threat of famine looms. Turkey is one of Gaza’s main humanitarian aid partners, sending 45,000 tons of supplies and medicine to the region. Israel has said it is preparing an offensive against the Gazan city of Rafah, and the reported Israeli attack on the Iranian province of Isfahan, following Iran’s direct attack on Israel, has only clouded hopes of a peace breakthrough. But Erdogan can only expect a “very limited” role because of his outspoken condemnation of Israel and its actions in Gaza, according to Ciddi. Last year, the Turkish leader likened the tactics of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to those of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and called Israel a “terrorist state” because of its offensive against Hamas after the militant group’s October 7 attacks on Israel. Ciddi said that Erdogan would not be welcome in Israel and at most might be able to pass messages between Palestinian and Israeli negotiators.
*Anne Chaon, with AFP

Palestinian Authority to ‘Reconsider’ Relations with US
AFP/This Is Beirut/April 20, 2024
The Palestinian Authority will “reconsider” its relationship with the United States after Washington vetoed a Palestinian bid for full UN membership earlier this week, President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday. “The Palestinian leadership will reconsider bilateral relations with the United States to ensure the protection of our people’s interests, our cause, and our rights,” Abbas told the official Palestinian news agency Wafa. Wafa said his remarks came “on the heels of the United States’ use of veto power” at the UN Security Council. Thursday’s vote saw 12 countries on the Council back a resolution recommending full Palestinian membership, and two — Britain and Switzerland — abstained. Only the United States, Israel’s staunchest ally, voted against the resolution, using their veto to block it. Abbas said the Palestinian leadership will “develop a new strategy to protect Palestinian national decisions independently and follow a Palestinian agenda rather than an American vision or regional agendas.” He said Palestinians would “not remain hostage to policies that have proven their failure and have been exposed to the entire world.”He also said that the stance of the US government had “generated unprecedented anger among the Palestinian people and the region’s populations, potentially pushing the region towards further instability, chaos, and terrorism.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov signals Putin's plan to seize Kharkiv and create a 'sanitary zone'
Nathan Rennolds/Business Insider/April 20, 2024
Sergey Lavrov suggested that Russia likely intended to launch an operation to seize Kharkiv. He is the first senior Kremlin official to identify the city as a potential target. He said the city is important in Russia's "sanitary zone" plans to protect its borders. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has strongly suggested that Russia intends to seize the city of Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine, making him the first senior Kremlin official to identify the city as a potential target outright. During a radio interview with Russian state propagandists, Lavrov said Ukraine's second-largest city had "an important role" in Russian President Vladimir Putin's plans to create a demilitarized "sanitary zone" to protect Russian border regions from Ukrainian attacks, the think tank the Institute for the Study of War said in an update on the conflict on Friday. Moscow has already made it clear that it believes the only way to defend Russian territory is through such a buffer zone, which would put its settlements out of reach of Ukrainian fire. "Against the backdrop of drone attacks and the shelling of our territory: public facilities, residential buildings, measures must be taken to secure these territories," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in March. "They can only be secured by creating some kind of buffer zone so that any means that the enemy uses to strike us are out of range," he added. Russia has ramped up its attack on Kharkiv in recent weeks, bombarding the city with missiles, guided bombs, and drones in what officials believe is an attempt to cut the city off from supplies and force the evacuation of civilians, Bloomberg reported, citing unnamed officials. In March, the commander in chief of Ukraine's armed forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi, told Ukrainian news agency Ukrinform that he could not ignore reports about Russia's plans to attack Kharkiv and that his troops were preparing for such an event. "We are carrying out a whole complex of works on the fortification of territories and positions, installing a complex system of fences, and planning the use of our troops in the event of such actions," he said. Putin has wanted to take Kharkiv since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022. The city has symbolic as well as strategic value for the Russian president, as it has a majority Russian-speaking population and was the first capital of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Russia lost nearly all of the territory it had gained in the wider Kharkiv region in 2022 after a rapid Ukrainian counterattack resulted in one of Ukraine's most significant victories of the conflict. During interviews with the radio stations Sputnik, Govorit Moskva, and Komsomolskaya Pravda, Lavrov also said that Russia was willing to negotiate with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy but that doing so would be "pointless for many reasons," Russian news agency Tass reported. He added that Russia would not halt its military operation in the event of future talks.

Latest English LCCC  analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published
on April 20-21/2024
Israel Under Attack – U.S. Administration Abandoning Its Ally?

Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/April 20, 2024
Article 2, paragraph 4 of the UN Charter explicitly prohibits the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any member state, making Iran's actions tantamount to an act of war.
The US administration's call for Israel to refrain from responding to attacks while facing direct aggression is deeply troubling and raises significant questions about the principles of sovereignty and self-defense.
In the face of relentless attacks on Israel, Washington is sending a dangerous message of encouragement, if not outright approval, to aggressors and undermining Israel's right to defend itself against existential threats.
Where is any real threat or pressure being paced on Hamas, Qatar or Iran, all of whom initiated the conflict in the first place? As far one can tell, nothing is even being done to eliminate Iran's nuclear weapons program. If Iran had nuclear weapons, does anyone think it might hesitate to use them, even "just" as a means of coercion?
The expectation that Israel should tolerate such attacks not only undermines the principles of self-defense and sovereignty but also erodes the longstanding partnership between the United States and Israel, sending a disconcerting message to the world about the strength of any US alliance in the face of adversity.
The expectation that Israel should tolerate attacks by Iran not only undermines the principles of self-defense and sovereignty but also erodes the longstanding partnership between the United States and Israel, sending a disconcerting message to the world about the strength of any US alliance in the face of adversity.
Amid the relentless assaults from multiple adversaries -- Iran's regime, Qatar, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Houthis -- Israel finds itself surrounded by Iran's "ring of fire" on all fronts.
These coordinated attacks, originating from both neighboring states and non-state actors, pose, as clearly intended, a threat to Israel's existence. In these dire circumstances, Israel looks to its longstanding ally, the United States, for crucial support and solidarity. However, the Biden administration's approach has left Israel feeling isolated and abandoned at a time when it most needs unwavering backing.
The lack of robust support from the United States has left Israel vulnerable and exposed, compounding the challenges it faces in confronting the mounting threats to its sovereignty and safety. As Israel grapples with the complexities of regional geopolitics and navigates the treacherous waters of conflict, the absence of unequivocal support from its traditional ally has only served to deepen its sense of isolation and uncertainty, and bolstered the Iranian regime and its militia and terror groups.
The Biden administration's approach -- characterized by a lack of leadership and giving substantial financial support worth billions of dollars to the Iranian regime -- has bolstered the Iranian regime to unprecedented levels, culminating in a historic and unprecedented direct attack on Israel.
This bold move marks a significant departure from Iran's traditional modus operandi of using proxies to target Israel and signifies a dramatic escalation in hostilities. The audacity of Iran's direct assault on Israel underscores the regime's newfound confidence in its capabilities and perceived impunity.
Iran's decision to abandon its covert approach and openly attack Israel represents a blatant act of aggression, a clear violation of international law and the UN Charter, and an act of war. Article 2, paragraph 4 of the UN Charter explicitly prohibits the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any member state, making Iran's actions tantamount to an act of war. In light of these developments, it is imperative for the international community to condemn Iran's reckless behavior and take decisive action to uphold the principles of peace, security, and sovereignty outlined in the UN Charter.
It is crucial to emphasize the potential consequences of failing to intercept Iran's ballistic missiles and killer drones -- not to mention potential nuclear weapons later on. Had these deadly weapons not been intercepted, the result could have been catastrophic, leading to the loss of countless civilian lives. The indiscriminate nature of ballistic missiles and drone attacks means that they pose a significant threat to populated areas and civilian infrastructure.
The stance taken by the current US administration in response to Israel's potential counterattack is deeply concerning and has significant implications for the dynamics of the conflict in the Middle East. Instead of offering unequivocal support to Israel in its efforts to defend itself against aggression, the administration has made it clear that it will not back any retaliatory measures by Israel. President Joe Biden's direct communication to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, explicitly stating that the United States will not support an Israeli counterattack, sends a troubling message of reluctance to stand firmly alongside a key ally in the region, and can only embolden Israel's enemies, as it did in the weeks leading up to October 7, 2023. Moreover, the decision to make this stance public further exacerbates the situation, effectively signaling to the Iranian regime that the United States is not fully committed to Israel's security, and instead more inclined to appease Tehran.
This perceived abandonment of Israel in its hour of need amounts to a significant victory for the Iranian regime, which stands to benefit from the weakened resolve of its adversaries and the erosion of international support for Israel. The scenes of jubilation among Iranian agents following the attack on Israel underscore the extent to which the Biden administration's actions have heartened Iran and undermined Israel's position in the region.
The US administration's call for Israel to refrain from responding to attacks while facing direct aggression is deeply troubling and raises significant questions about the principles of sovereignty and self-defense. In the face of relentless attacks on Israel, Washington is sending a dangerous message of encouragement, if not outright approval, to aggressors and undermining Israel's right to defend itself against existential threats.
Moreover, the stark contrast between the administration's response to Israel's predicament and the hypothetical scenario of the United States coming under direct attack underscores a troubling double-standard in international relations. Where is any real threat or pressure being paced on Hamas, Qatar or Iran, all of whom initiated the conflict in the first place? As far one can tell, nothing is even being done to eliminate Iran's nuclear weapons program. If Iran had nuclear weapons, does anyone think it might hesitate to use them, even as a means of coercion?
One cannot but wonder whether the Biden administration or the US would adopt a similar stance if confronted with a barrage of ballistic missiles from state and non-state actors targeting its territory. The expectation that Israel should tolerate such attacks not only undermines the principles of self-defense and sovereignty but also erodes the longstanding partnership between the United States and Israel, sending a disconcerting message to the world about the strength of any US alliance in the face of adversity.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a business strategist and advisor, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He has authored several books on Islam and US Foreign Policy. He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu
© 2024 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Editorial — The Unspoken War
Michel Touma/This Is Beirut/April 20/2024
The prevailing impression from the unfolding “vicissitudes” in Isfahan at the break of dawn on Friday was that Israelis and Iranians were almost ashamed of engaging in direct, face-to-face warfare… In their quest for moral justification, they deploy startling theatrics or unusual military-media acrobatics. Their objective: to minimize damage, prevent loss of human life and mitigate the impact of their actions on their adversary, all to save face. Yet in the absence of a head-on confrontation, it is the Pasdaran’s footholds in multiple Arab nations that could seriously bear the brunt of this unspoken war. Evidence of this lies in the recent attack on the significant Kalsu base belonging to the pro-Iranian Iraqi militia, the “Popular Mobilization” (Hashed al-Shaabi), in the province of Babylon on Friday night. Upon the operation in Isfahan at daybreak on Friday, it took several hours to determine the nature, magnitude and contours of the attack. According to Iranian authorities, little of consequence transpired that day (!), save for the sudden appearance of three small drones engaged in a playful pursuit, leisurely twirling in the tranquil skies of Isfahan… In Tehran, every linguistic device was employed to trivialize the magnitude of the attack. Meanwhile, Israel maintained official silence; no claims were made, evidently to allow Tehran to tackle the situation discreetly, without media spectacle.
This doubly cautious approach, coupled with Iran’s customary warnings to the Hebrew State, signifies the unique stage unfolding in the Middle East which seems characterized by a war of a new kind. For both Israel and the Islamic Republic—more specifically the Pasdaran—the current challenge is predominantly geopolitical rather than purely military. The journey to Jerusalem is indeed extremely lengthy, much too far for the Pasdaran, Hezbollah, the Houthis and their consorts to realistically undertake! Once again, it is in the predominantly political realm that we must assess the mysterious attack on Isfahan. The Israeli army clearly intended to demonstrate its capability to seamlessly penetrate Iranian airspace to its adversary and execute a precisely targeted strike against highly strategic infrastructure within Iranian territory. The selection of Isfahan itself, situated at the heart of Iran and housing significant nuclear, military and industrial facilities, speaks volumes. What’s particularly striking is that this show of force was not conducted via drones, but by Israeli aviation using long-range missiles, allegedly causing significant damage to… an air defense system (!), according to The New York Times.
The significance of this attack on Isfahan resides not only in the undetected operation of Israeli military aircraft but also in what was not executed. The vulnerabilities, if not the absence of Iranian air defense systems in such a critical area as Isfahan have now been glaringly revealed. The bombardment was conducted from a distance, admittedly, but proceeded without any notable response. Simultaneously, it is noteworthy that Israel took care to spare the nuclear, or at least industrial, infrastructure in the area. Is Israel’s restraint the result of intense American pressure or a deliberate strategy to avoid excessively destabilizing the Iranian regime? In either case, the alternative option could be to rely on local Pasdaran proxies. The bombing of the military base linked to the Hashed al-Shaabi in Babylon on Friday night is undoubtedly one such illustration. The matter is to be continued, in this regard…

The Distinguished, and the Others
Nicolas Sbeih/This Is Beirut/April 20/2024
“We’re a bit fed up, you know, my dear, with all this bad news every day; we can’t wait to get back to our lives; in fact, I need to do some shopping, it’ll cheer me up.” And so, the “completely outdated” items are renewed, a few pieces to ornament the new Art Deco secretary, the coveted shawls, the sparkling jewelry sets, dinner at the latest Italian restaurant “offering fresh truffles for next to nothing, $150 for the menu!”This is the Distinction, Pierre Bourdieu’s 1979 masterpiece, classified as a reference in sociology. One of its themes is that every social class tends to distinguish itself from the one directly below it… but also inevitably tries to emulate the lifestyle of the immediately superior class, which, as soon as it perceives that this attempt might succeed, rushes to push its lifestyle even higher. These distinctions are made in the consumption of goods and services and in the more, or less, refined manner of practicing this consumption: “You can tell they’re nouveaux riches, see how she wears her purse!”
Indeed, this money, inevitably liquid, freely flowing, comes from these two sources. The first is confined to the “well-bred” wealthy who have had the “wisdom” to keep a good portion of their wealth elsewhere and who maintain a flourishing business. Then there are the “newly rich” who, according to a certain local scale of perverse value, “have been clever enough to know how to take advantage.”But take advantage of what? Oh, over the past four years, opportunities have not been lacking: subsidies of fuel, medication and 300 other “basic products,” smuggling, speculation on the national currency, the differential between the Sayrafa rate and the market rate, dubious transactions involving COVID vaccines and other purchases, money laundering, inherent to any cash economy…Hence these import figures reach staggering levels, although we’re struggling to count them: in 2022, they almost reached $19 billion, a level not seen in years, as people took advantage of reduced customs duties. It was practically the level of the pre-crisis heyday. For the year 2023, official statistics have stopped for the time being in August 2023, with over $10 billion in imports. By arithmetic extension, they should reach around $15.5 billion for the whole year. In reality, they will probably be more, considering that the last two months of the year are particularly active. Especially since the tonnage of goods at the port of Beirut is nearly at the same level as in 2022.
And all this while the crisis has paradoxically been dragging on with no measures to alleviate it. Governance is at less than zero. Resulting, by that very fact, in an abyss between these old/new more or less affluent households and a damned caste thrown onto the sidewalk, reduced to begging for the small handful of dollars from the bank across the street. So if we absolutely want to engage in economic prospecting, we are torn between several catapulting trends. On the one side, some cry out at the indecency of such ostentatious displays of wealth. But on the other side, we think that consuming, if we have the means, is always better than safely hoarding bundles in the basement; it keeps money circulating. Except that, on a third side, it contributes to the trade deficit and the balance of payments, which is inherently harmful and was one of the causes of the crisis. Finally, to make our existence even more complicated, we take a fourth side of this irregular and deformed quadrilateral. It’s the mist in which all this evolves. We enjoy wading through waves of speculation, approximations and neglect elevated to the level of an economic system, found nowhere else. And we resign ourselves to it, saying that this is our own distinction.

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

Why US voters are looking beyond Biden and Trump
Andrew Hammond/Arab News/April 20, 2024
As the 2024 presidential race heats up, a central paradox is becoming ever clearer: Many voters are growing disenchanted with, and are certainly not enthused, by the two main candidates, Joe Biden and Donald Trump, who are 81 and 77 years old, respectively. With a little over six months to go before election day on Nov. 5, this can be seen in Biden’s relatively low approval ratings. Meanwhile, Trump’s ever-growing list of controversies and court cases might be buoying his populist political base but they are turning off many independents and more moderate Republican voters. One of the key implications of all this is the high possibility that their choice of running mates will be unusually important this time around, in historical terms, not least because of the greater than usual possibility that whichever of them triumphs in the presidential election might face challenges, given their age.
Therefore, their choices of vice president will be very important, which challenges the traditional view of this secondary office. The usual perspective on the office was rather colorfully summarized by John Nance Garner, who held the post between 1933 and 1941 under Franklin D. Roosevelt, when he said that “vice presidents never get to go anywhere … the office is not worth a bucket of warm spit.”Even if Biden or Trump, the oldest presidential candidates nominated by the two main parties in American history, manage the next five years, their energy could flag significantly during their time in office. Their running mates might therefore wield major influence in the White House. There are at least two, more general reasons for this, beyond the ages of Biden and Trump. Firstly, the office has assumed more power and resources in recent decades, with recent vice presidents such as Biden, Dick Cheney, and Al Gore ranking among the most influential in US history.
The power that those three were entrusted with reflected not only their own great political experience and strong relationships with Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton respectively. It was also a function of the enhanced status of the vice presidency, reflected not only by larger staffing budgets but also greater proximity to the center of power via a West Wing office in the White House; weekly one-on-one meetings with the president; and the authority to attend all presidential meetings. Secondly, the office has become perhaps the single best transitional step to the presidency, as exemplified by Biden. Even if the next president manages past 2029, the next vice president could be on a “fast track” to the Oval Office at the 2028 election, or at some point in the 2030s. Since 1960, four sitting vice presidents earned their respective party’s presidential nomination but lost the election: Richard Nixon in 1960, Hubert Humphrey in 1968; Walter Mondale in 1984; and Gore in 2000. Three former vice presidents have been elected president: Nixon in 1968, George H.W. Bush in 1988, and Biden in 2020. The next vice president has a higher than normal chance of assuming the top job at some point between 2025 and 2029. As noted, the next vice president has a higher than normal chance of assuming the top job at some point between 2025 and 2029. And history shows us the crucial effect that stepping up in this way can have on the future prospects of a vice president.
This is perhaps best exemplified by Harry Truman, who was vice president for just a few months, from January to April 1945, before becoming president when Roosevelt died in office. Within weeks of taking over, Truman had made several highly consequential, controversial decisions, not least the order to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August that year. He subsequently won the 1948 presidential election.
In this context, the electoral stakes have grown in the nuclear age for failing to select a deputy perceived as being capable of effectively assuming the office of president upon the death or incapacitation of the incumbent.
Take, for example, the 2008 election, in which Republican nominee John McCain, then 71, selected as his running mate Sarah Palin, who was widely viewed at the time as being too inexperienced and gaffe-prone to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.
Barring any last-minute change of mind, it looks most likely that Vice President Kamala Harris will once again be Biden’s running mate, despite the fact that she is widely perceived as not having performed strongly since taking office in 2021.
In 2016, Trump chose former Gov. Mike Pence, someone even many of his partisan opponents would concede could have potentially assumed the presidency in an effective manner had the situation warranted it. It remains unclear, however, whether in 2024 Trump will pick a similarly suitably competent individual. One candidate reportedly under consideration to be his running mate is Kari Lake, who said during a rally last Sunday that Trump supporters should prepare for a “difficult” six months ahead of the election, and called on the military and police veterans among them to stand ready.
Remarkably, she then added: “What do we want to strap on? We’re going to strap on our seat belt. We’re going to put on our helmet or your Kari Lake ball cap. We are going to put on the armor of God. Then maybe strap on a Glock (a type of gun) on the side of us, just in case. You can put one here and one in the back or one in the front, whatever you guys decide.”Taking all of this together, we can see why the choice of vice president will really matter. The next holder of the office will not only have significant powers in their own right, they will also have a higher than usual chance of taking over as president should Trump or Biden be unable to perform as president.
*Andrew Hammond is an associate at LSE IDEAS at the London School of Economics.

Israeli settlers are becoming increasingly brazen in their violence
Yossi Mekelberg/Arab News/April 20, 2024
Settler violence is nothing new; it has been plaguing the people of the occupied West Bank for many years. But the perpetrators have grown increasingly brazen and the term “settler terrorism” is now probably the best definition of the phenomenon. After all, they aim to terrorize the local Palestinian population and scare them into submission, if not into abandoning their land altogether. There are several explanations for the spike in impudence among the hardcore, ultranationalist, religious settlers in their attacks on neighboring Palestinian towns and villages. These include the presence among them of some of their more extreme representatives in the current Israeli government; a shift in international attention to the war in Gaza; the recent hostilities between Israel and Iran; and the fact that the Israeli security forces do almost nothing to stop the attacks.
Moreover, in the distorted mindset of those who commit these abhorrent acts of violence, and their political masters, the aftermath of the Oct. 7 attacks has made it open season on harming Palestinians for nothing more than simply being Palestinian.
Last week, the trigger for one of the worst few days of settler pogroms against neighboring Palestinians was the disappearance of a 14-year-old shepherd who had taken a flock out to graze from the settler outpost of Malachi Hashalom. The violence intensified after his body was found, likely the victim of a terrorist attack by a Palestinian assailant.
This was a case for the security forces to investigate and bring to justice whoever was responsible for the crime. Instead, the usual pattern of settlers going on the rampage, burning houses and property in nearby Palestinian villages immediately ensued in the area where the body of Binyamin Ahimeir was found.
During three days of continuous and intense violence, hundreds of settlers did whatever they wished. It was reported that at least two Palestinians were killed by live ammunition and dozens were wounded. Furthermore, houses and cars in the Palestinian villages of Mughayir and Duma were set ablaze, and water tanks, electricity supplies, and internet networks were shot at. The Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din shared a video on social media platform X that showed settlers setting fire to a vehicle in Deir Dobwan, under the noses of soldiers who did nothing to stop them.
This incident was not an isolated one and while anger over the killing of any innocent person, let alone a child, is understandable, there is no excuse for the members of settler militias to assault and harm thousands of other innocent people in response. They might think they are judge, jury, and executioner, but that is only because Israel’s security forces allow those things to happen. By extension, the government and wider Israeli society are complicit in the behavior of the settlers.
It should be made absolutely clear that it is the duty of the occupying power, in other words Israel, to ensure the safety and well-being of the people living under occupation, not to protect those who harm them and steal their land.
Violence, on either side, is not going to resolve the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians; the past six months of war in Gaza should have convinced everyone of that. It is the duty of the occupying power, in other words Israel, to ensure the safety and well-being of the people living under occupation.
One of the few issues relating to the wider Israeli-Palestinian conflict on which there is an international consensus is the illegality of the entire settlement project — even if the international community is doing very little to limit its expansion.
Already this year, during the first quarter a record amount of land in the West Bank has been declared state-owned property, much of it in areas deep within the territory, nowhere close to the Green Line. This has increased the sense of resentment and friction among Palestinians, who see this not only as their land being confiscated but also as their dream of a viable independent state being destroyed.
The illegal nature of the entire settlement project should be dealt with as part of the overall relations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and resolved when a peace agreement is eventually reached. In the meantime, however, containing its expansion must be a matter of priority. In addition, the violent behavior of a minority of settlers, though by no stretch of the imagination a negligible group in terms of numbers and determination to cause harm, must be immediately quashed.
If the Israeli government is reluctant to end the settler violence for political reasons (not least Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s dependence on settlers’ representatives for his own political survival), then it is up to the international community to maintain the pressure on the settlers themselves, while also bringing pressure to bear on the Israeli government.
To say that this extremist, supremacist minority is a stain on Israeli society is an understatement. According to a recent UN report, settler violence has been on a steady and worrying rise for the past few years. In 2022, two settler-related incidents were recorded each day. This had risen to three a day immediately before the Oct. 7 attacks last year, and now the number has surged to seven a day. In other words, the combination of a government that supports settler violence and a sense of legitimacy following the horrific attacks by Hamas opened the floodgates for settler aggression against Palestinians, ranging from criminal harassment to sheer terrorism. At the beginning of February, US President Joe Biden crossed the Rubicon in his country’s relations with Israel by “imposing certain sanctions on persons undermining peace, security and stability in the West Bank.” The measure was imposed on four Israeli settlers to punish them for violence against Palestinians and Israeli peace activists.
The following month, the US government announced further sanctions against two Israeli outposts which, according to the State Department, were being used as bases to perpetrate “violence against Palestinians.”Authorities in the UK also took action, announcing sanctions against four extremist Israeli settlers with a proven track record of abusing the human rights of Palestinians. At last we are seeing signs that such behavior will not continue to go unpunished, if not by the Israeli government then at least by some members of the international community.
It is somewhere between difficult and impossible to extract from the current Israeli government any rational or logical policies that might actually serve the interests of their country. Not when the prime minister is desperately clinging to power by the skin of his teeth, an effort that requires the support of those who support the worst kind of settler behavior. Indeed, several members of Netanyahu’s Cabinet have been actively involved in settler violence and continue to encourage it. At this point in time, when the entire region is on the brink of a conflagration, settler violence can only contribute to the growing instability. The situation therefore calls for international intervention to stop an ugly phenomenon that is no longer the exception but has become the norm as well as the rule.
*Yossi Mekelberg is a professor of international relations and an associate fellow of the Middle East and North Africa Program at international affairs think tank Chatham House. X: @YMekelberg

Sudan needs a new approach to aid — and fast
Hafed Al-Ghwell/Arab News/April 20, 2024
The crisis in Sudan, exacerbated by violence between the Sudanese Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces that broke out in April 2023, has unfurled a cataclysm of suffering with profound repercussions for the region. Despite the continuing conflict, the traditional mechanisms of international aid have been remarkably ineffective, creating a necessity for rethinking the global community’s response to Sudan’s needs and those of neighboring countries.
To date, the civil war has resulted in an unprecedented displacement catastrophe, with more than 8.6 million people uprooted. Harrowing images of indiscriminate violence against the populace, including gender-based brutalities and signs of ethnically targeted mass killings in Darfur, raise the urgency of considerable humanitarian demands to critical levels. The sobering realities on the ground — with the stark underreporting of casualties, currently at 14,700, and the looming specter of famine endangering almost 5 million people — are not merely a snapshot of a prevailing chaos but also demand immediate action.
In parallel, the ramifications of the war reverberate throughout the region. Both South Sudan and Chad are suffering from the conflict’s spillover. South Sudan’s hunger crisis has worsened, plunging the nation into socioeconomic insecurity and rising food scarcity. Chad, meanwhile, is now host to over a million refugees, even as it grapples with a grave lack of resources for its own population. The unfolding crisis exposes the sheer deficiencies in current approaches to international aid that insist on temporary fixes where comprehensive surgery is necessary, given the glaring discrepancies in the funding-to-needs ratio. Up until the International Conference on Sudan held in Paris on April 15, international responses stood at a mere 42 percent of the $2.57 billion required in Sudan and less than 40 percent of the $1 billion targeting refugee assistance — a colossal underfunding now contributing to Sudan’s worsening woes. Such affronts in a swelling crisis are neither sustainable nor strategic. The April 15 conference among almost 60 countries, where donors pledged about $2.1 billion in humanitarian aid, stands as a welcome relief, and a positive sign that Sudan has not yet been forgotten.
However, pledges do not automatically translate to direct, immediate and comprehensive apolitical support that is also immune from the polarizing dynamics of yet another proxy war. Promises of help will not feed a third of Sudan’s 51 million people who now suffer from hunger, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Nor will those most at risk suddenly gain uninterrupted access to adequate nutrition, medical care or stable living conditions, such as the 200,000 children, pregnant women, and mothers with newborns at risk of malnutrition in the coming months.
Rising to meet Sudan’s needs is not merely a necessary response but a moral imperative.
It would be unfair to allow pessimism to temper well-intentioned aims to deliver relief to those desperately in need. The trouble, as always, is not in the “what,” but in the “how,” due to the inherent flaws in current aid delivery systems that oscillate between emergency aid and no aid. It is a system that has stubbornly resisted reform despite the increasing severity and frequency of humanitarian crises around the globe. In the northeast Africa context, piecemeal assistance being a normative response to burgeoning crises not only intensifies existing systemic governance and socioeconomic challenges, but also makes future conflicts and regional conflagrations inevitable.
Instead, what Sudan needs — and what the sub-region really needs — is recalibrated approaches to aid, which necessitate innovations beyond the reactive; it calls for intertwining assistance with sustainable development initiatives, local-level engagements, and tackling of climate change’s cumulative impacts. In lieu of armed intervention, which carries its own manifold complexities and potential for further aggravating crises, Sudan and its neighbors need a new approach and fast — and preferably one that deals with the immediate need for basic sustenance and, ultimately, the enduring support that will be critical for long-term stability and growth. First, such a system must be grounded in what experts call “integrated support,” which targets the consequences of a confluence between episodic violence, conflict, and historical governance failures. This convergence created systemic difficulties, for instance, where inadequate infrastructure, catalyzed by war, goes on to exacerbate impacts to sanitation, healthcare, and access to essential public services.
Thus, the Paris conference, and others like it, while commendable, must realign priorities to not only provide relief, but also make the development of robust civil systems foundational, rather than an afterthought. With millions internally displaced and critical infrastructure decimated, an integrated aid approach is more than humanitarian benevolence — it is a strategic necessity to stabilize and eventually rebuild a nation. Second, neighboring countries directly affected by Sudan’s civil war also need new approaches built on the underexplored potential of local actors and community-based initiatives. These vital groups are often at the front line of humanitarian responses due to their accessibility and inherent understanding of the conflict landscape, from the cultural to the logistical. They exist on the periphery of larger aid agencies’ operational scope, and have consistently emerged as beacons of resilience and responsiveness in areas that are inaccessible. Current and future fundraising successes must, therefore, be channeled to empower well-placed local entities to deliver targeted interventions that help stem widespread violence pushing some communities to the brink.
Lastly, climate change, particularly in Sudan’s context, where food production and distribution networks have virtually collapsed not only due to conflict but also due to climate anomalies. International aid must, therefore, include strategies for climate resilience in tandem with urgent humanitarian relief. Integrating climate adaptation with aid not only addresses immediate survival concerns, but also lays the groundwork for sustainable agricultural recovery and resilience for the country’s predominantly agrarian society.
Given these imperatives, the global community must rise to the challenge of increasing humanitarian aid through a collaborative, multidimensional approach that weaves together development assistance and the agency of local actors. This would fulfill both the immediate requisites for basic sustenance and the enduring structural needs critical for Sudan’s long-term stability and growth.
Rising to meet Sudan’s needs with a revamped approach is not merely a necessary response but a moral imperative. Absent boots on the ground, it is crucial to revise traditional frameworks for humanitarian aid delivery and foreign assistance, by committing to a new playbook targeting the intersecting challenges of conflict, instability, and climate change. A new strategy would also be the greatest commitment to safeguarding human security in the pursuit of actionable peace, justice, and strong institutions.
**Hafed Al-Ghwell is a senior fellow and executive director of the North Africa Initiative at the Foreign Policy Institute of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC. X: @HafedAlGhwell