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MIDDLE EAST CRISIS UPDATE: 13 MARCH 2024

Hezbollah fires over 100 rockets at Israel; US terror threat ‘on another level’, warns FBI

Hezbollah fires over 100 rockets at Israel; US terror threat ‘on another level’, warns FBI
Iranian supporters of Hezbollah wave Palestinian flags in the Gaza Strip, in Tehran, Iran, 7 October 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH)

Hezbollah launched more than 100 missiles at Israeli military sites in one of the Lebanon-based group’s heaviest assaults in recent months, threatening to escalate an already simmering conflict.

Terrorist threats towards the US had reached a “whole other level” from the already heightened situation before the 7 October attack by Hamas on Israel and its response, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday.

The first ship carrying aid to Gaza from Cyprus had set sail, Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides said on Tuesday.

Hezbollah fires rocket barrage at Israel in escalating fight

Hezbollah launched more than 100 missiles at Israeli military sites in one of the Lebanon-based group’s heaviest assaults in recent months, threatening to escalate an already simmering conflict. 

The Tuesday morning rocket attack was in response to an Israeli strike on the Lebanese city of Baalbek the day before that killed one person, Iran-backed Hezbollah said.

At least 10 people were injured in another Israeli assault on Tuesday on a town in the same area in the eastern Bekaa region, Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported. Israel rarely attacks that deep — around 80km — into Lebanese territory. Israel Defense Forces said it hit two sites belonging to Hezbollah’s aerial forces.

“What are you waiting for? More than 100 missiles on the State of Israel and you sit quietly?” Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said in a post on the social media site X, aimed at Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. “Let’s start reacting, attacking.”

Ben-Gvir is an ultra-nationalist who frequently urges Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to act more forcefully against Hezbollah.

The latest exchanges are likely to increase concerns that the near-daily trading of fire between the two sides could escalate into a full-blown conflict, opening up a new front to Israel’s ongoing war in Gaza. Hezbollah, one of the most powerful militias in the Middle East, and Hamas are both supported by Tehran and have the destruction of the Jewish state among their goals.

Tens of thousands of Israelis and Lebanese have evacuated their homes due to the cross-border fighting, which erupted around the time Hamas invaded southern Israel on 7 October, killing 1,200 people and triggering the war in Gaza, where more than 30,000 people have been killed, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

Terrorist threat to US has reached ‘whole other level’, FBI warns

Terrorist threats toward the US had reached a “whole other level” from the already heightened situation before the 7 October attack by Hamas on Israel and its response, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday.

“You’ve seen a veritable rogue’s gallery of foreign terrorist organisations calling for terrorist attacks against us in a way that we haven’t seen in a long, long time,” the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigations told the House Intelligence Committee in an annual presentation on the biggest “worldwide threats” facing the US.

Wray, speaking alongside other top US intelligence officials, said the FBI was also concerned about the risk of violent attacks by lone actors inspired by calls for violence from the Middle East.

“This is a time not for panic, but for heightened vigilance given the risk,” Wray said.

The intelligence community’s written report said armed resistance to Israel by Hamas was likely to continue for years, despite Netanyahu’s vow to destroy the group during its current drive in Gaza. “It is likely that the Gaza conflict will have a generational impact on terrorism,” the report predicted.

Aid ship leaves Cyprus for embattled Gaza

The first ship carrying aid to Gaza from Cyprus had set sail, Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides said on Tuesday.

“The first ship in the context of the Cyprus Maritime Corridor Initiative for humanitarian aid to Gaza has sailed. It is a lifeline to civilians,” Christodoulides said on Tuesday in a post on X.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited Cyprus to announce the Cyprus Maritime Corridor Initiative on Friday. Under the plan, ships will carry food and medical supplies from the Cypriot town of Larnaca across the Mediterranean Sea to Gaza, where the US plans to set up a temporary port to receive shipments.

“When fully operational, this maritime corridor could guarantee a sustained, regulated and robust flow of aid to Gaza,” Von der Leyen told the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday. “And this is the first time that a ship is authorised to deliver aid to Gaza since 2005.”

The operation is being conducted with the cooperation of the EU, the UK, the US and the United Arab Emirates.

Columbia University sued by student groups suspended over war protest

Columbia University has been sued by a pair of student groups that were suspended last year after a demonstration opposing the war in Gaza, the latest in a growing list of lawsuits the school faces over the hot-button topics of anti-Semitism and Palestinian rights.

The suit, brought by Columbia’s chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, claims the university violated its policies by suspending the student groups after a November protest that violated school policies. They are seeking to restore funds they lost as a result of the suspension, according to the complaint filed in New York state court on Monday.

The student groups, who are suing under New York civil law, claim they were “targeted for punishment not because of the claimed rules infractions but because of the content of their advocacy” and that their suspension was disproportionate to the policies they violated.

A spokesperson for Columbia declined to comment. The groups were suspended after holding an unauthorised protest that “included threatening rhetoric and intimidation”, according to a university email included in the complaint. The groups have since been reinstated. DM

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  • JP K says:

    Is it any surprise that Columbia suspended the student groups? It’s about funding as the very learned professors at UCT made clear when faced with the choice of funding or supporting a boycott of Israel.

    I’m not sure why a report was necessary to point out that “It is likely that the Gaza conflict will have a generational impact on terrorism” or that “armed resistance to Israel by Hamas was likely to continue for years” – both these outcomes are entirely predictable. Thus Israel’s stated aims were either utterly misguided or a pretext.

    On the aid ships –

  • JP K says:

    On the aid ships – according to the UN this is not enough nor is it the most effective or efficient way to deliver aid. I also wonder how, with the defunding of UNRWA, the logistics of this will work.

  • Samuel Ginsberg says:

    Now they’re during rockets at Israeli civilians. When Israel goes in and deals with the problem as any sovereign state should they’ll cry and scream and beg for another ceasefire.

    • Malcolm McManus says:

      Time Naledi intervenes and has a chat to Lebanon, to prevent having to go to the ICJ again. The Israeli spokesman has been warning Hezbollah almost daily to refrain from firing rockets over the Northern border for a number of months now. Naledi says nothing, and just watches it happen, waiting for the looming conflict, at which time she will sneak out of the shadows and blame Israel again for defending itself.

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