Son Heber

Middle East crisis live: Iran says ‘enemy’ will ‘regret’ strike on Damascus; US on high alert for attacks from Tehran | Israel-Gaza war

Iran says ‘enemy’ will ‘regret’ Guards killings in Syria

Iran on Saturday again threatened retaliation for the deaths of seven Revolutionary Guards in a strike on Damascus, with the army chief saying his country’s enemies will “regret” the killings, reports AFP.

Tehran has vowed to avenge Monday’s airstrike on the Syrian capital it blamed on its arch-enemy Israel, which has not commented.

The attack levelled the Iranian embassy’s consular annexe in Damascus, killing seven Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) members including two generals.

Iran’s response “will be carried out at the right time, with the necessary precision and planning, and with maximum damage to the enemy so that they regret their action,” chief of staff Mohammad Bagheri said on Saturday, according to AFP.

He was speaking at a ceremony in the central city of Isfahan to commemorate Mohammad Reza Zahedi, one of the two dead brigadier generals from the al-Quds force, the IRGC’s foreign operations arm.

Zahedi, 63, was the al-Quds force commander for the Palestinian Territories, Syria and Lebanon, according to UK-based war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

He had held several commands during a career spanning more than 40 years, and was the most senior Iranian soldier killed since a US missile strike at Baghdad airport in 2020 killed al-Quds force chief Gen Qassem Suleimani.

AFP reports that on Saturday, crowds at the gathering in Isfahan chanted “down with Israel” and “down with the United States”.

The Islamic republic’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said Israel “will be punished” for the killings.

On Friday, IRGC chief Gen Hossein Salami warned that Israel “cannot escape the consequences” of the Damascus strike.


Updated at 

Key events

The former UK prime minister, Boris Johnson says a western arms embargo on Israel would “hand victory” to Hamas and has said banning arms sales to Israel would be “insane”. The comments were made in his column in the Daily Mail on Friday.

You can read more of the report from Daniel Lavelle here:


An Iranian journalist who was stabbed outside his London home last week has returned to work, saying the “show must go on”.

Pouria Zeraati was knifed in the leg by a group of three unknown assailants as he approached his car in Wimbledon on 29 March.

The journalist, who works for London-based dissident broadcaster Iran International, has spoken publicly for the first time since the attack and described the stabbing as a “warning shot”. Zeraati told ITV News: “The fact that they just stopped in my leg was their choice to do that.

“They had the opportunity to kill me because the way the second person was holding me and the first person took the knife out, they had the opportunity to stop anywhere they wanted.”

He added: “Whatever the motive was, the show must go on.”

The Metropolitan police has said no arrests have yet been made, but that they are confident suspects “do not present a risk to communities of London or the UK” as detectives believe the three suspects fled the country via Heathrow within hours of the stabbing.

You can read the full piece on this story here:


‘You don’t use night vision?’: IDF officer challenged over killing of aid workers – video

An Israeli inquiry has blamed a series of “grave errors” by military personnel, including lack of coordination and misidentification, for its killing of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers in Gaza through drone strikes.

In an interview with the BBC, Lt Col Peter Lerner of the Israel Defense Forces said the Israeli military had been unable to recognise that the vehicles belonged to the aid organisation. The IDF said it had dismissed a brigade chief of staff with the rank of colonel and a brigade fire support officer with the rank of major and issued formal reprimands to senior officers, including the general at the head of the southern command.

The findings are likely to renew scepticism over the military’s decision-making. Palestinians, aid groups and human rights organisations have accused Israeli forces of firing recklessly at civilians throughout the conflict – a charge Israel denies.

You can see the IDF officer being challenged on the BBC interview here:

‘You don’t use night vision?’: IDF officer challenged over killing of aid workers – video


Iranian police on Saturday announced the arrest of a senior operative of Islamic State with two other members of the group accused of planning a suicide attack during next week’s celebrations marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, reports Reuters.

The police said Mohammad Zaker, known as “Ramesh”, and the other two were arrested in Karaj, west of the capital Tehran, after clashes, according to Iranian media. Eight others accompanying the men were also detained, they said.


Israeli inquiry findings on aid worker killings lack credibility, charity says

Peter Beaumont

Peter Beaumont

World Central Kitchen has rejected as lacking credibility the findings of an Israeli investigation led by a former general into a coordinated series of Israeli drone strikes on the charity’s vehicles in Gaza this week that killed seven aid workers.

As the Israel Defense Forces blamed a series of “grave errors” by officers for the deadly attack that killed three Britons, three other foreign nationals and a Palestinian colleague while delivering food, WCK renewed its calls for a full and independent investigation.

Amid mounting international pressure on Israel, the British foreign secretary, David Cameron, said the findings of the Israeli inquiry – which he said the UK was reviewing carefully – showed that “major reform” was required.

“It’s clear major reform of Israel’s deconfliction mechanism is badly needed to ensure the safety of aid workers,” Cameron said on X.

The hurriedly completed inquiry, which led to two middle-ranking officers being dismissed and a general reprimanded, outlined a catalogue of failings by Israeli forces in an incident that has reinforced global criticism of Israel’s conduct of a war in which 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in six months.

While welcoming the report as a first step, WCK’s founder, the celebrity chef José Andrés, said: “The IDF cannot credibly investigate its own failure in Gaza. It’s not enough to simply try to avoid further humanitarian deaths, which have now approached close to 200. All civilians need to be protected, and all innocent people in Gaza need to be fed and safe. And all hostages must be released.”

You can read the full piece by Peter Beaumont here:


‘We want to know why’: UN chief questions Israel over 196 aid worker deaths in Gaza – video

The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has said he hopes Israel will quickly and effectively boost aid access to Gaza, describing the situation in the region as “absolutely desperate”.

Israel has approved the reopening of the Erez crossing into northern Gaza and temporary use of Ashdod port in southern Israel after the US president, Joe Biden, said conditions could be placed on US support for Israel if it did not act.

Global outrage at the humanitarian crisis escalated after an Israeli airstrike killed seven people working for the international charity World Central Kitchen. Noting that 196 humanitarian workers had been killed so far during Israel’s campaign, Guterres said: “We want to know why.”

You can listen to the comments by Guterres in the video here:

‘We want to know why’: UN chief questions Israel over 196 aid worker deaths in Gaza – video


Thousands of people protested in Morocco’s commercial capital Casablanca late on Friday against “massacres” in the Gaza Strip and against the country’s normalisation of ties with Israel, reports AFP.

The protest – the latest large-scale rally of its kind in Morocco – was called by the banned but tolerated Islamist group al-Adl wal-Ihsane, according to the news agency.

Al-Adl wal-Ihsane also organised similar gatherings in the capital Rabat and the port of Tangier.

Moroccan protesters take part in a demonstration in solidarity with Palestinians, in the city of Casablanca. Photograph: Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images

The demonstrations were held to mark the last Friday in the holy fasting month of Ramadan, and al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day when annual rallies in support of the Palestinans are held around the region.

“Normalisation is a hoax” and “Down with the occupation”, protesters chanted in Casablanca, reports AFP.

Protesters take part in a demonstration in solidarity with Palestinians after al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day, in Casablanca. Photograph: Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images

“We came to say ’no’ to the barbaric massacres Israel is committing against Palestinians, to the destruction in Gaza … and to the silence of the Arab states,” protest organiser Mohammed Riahi told AFP.

Casablanca lawyer Mohammed Ennouini, 51, told the news agency: “Normalising ties between Arab states and Israel gives it the green light to keep killing civilians.”

Rabat has officially denounced what it said were “flagrant violations of the provisions of international law” by Israel in its war against Hamas, but has not given any indication that normalisation with Israel would be undone.

Thousands of people protested in Morocco’s commercial capital Casablanca late on Friday. Photograph: Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images

Updated at 

US and Israeli negotiators expected in Cairo

US and Israeli negotiators are expected in Cairo over the weekend for a renewed push to reach a ceasefire-hostage deal in a war that has raged for nearly half a year, reports news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Ahead of the talks, US president Joe Biden wrote to the leaders of Egypt and Qatar urging them to dial up pressure on Hamas to “agree to and abide by a deal,” a senior administration official told AFP on Friday night.

The US, Qatar and Egypt have engaged for months in behind-the-scenes talks to broker a ceasefire and an exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners, but have made no headway since a week-long truce in November.

The White House confirmed that negotiations would occur this weekend in Cairo, but would not comment on US media reports that CIA director Bill Burns would be attending, along with Israel spy chief David Barnea, Qatari prime minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani and Egypt’s intelligence chief Abbas Kamel.

Israel and Hamas, which negotiate through intermediaries, have traded blame for the lack of progress, say AFP.

“This basic fact remains true: There would be a ceasefire in Gaza today had Hamas simply agreed to release this vulnerable category of hostages – the sick, wounded, elderly, and young women,” the senior Biden administration official said.

Hamas officials and Qatari mediator Al-Thani have previously accused Israel of stymying the truce with objections over the return of displaced Palestinian civilians and the ratio of prisoners to hostages.

During a phone call with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, Biden pushed him to “fully empower” his negotiators to reach a deal.


Opening summary

It has just gone 9am in Gaza and Tel Aviv. This is our latest Guardian live blog on the Israel-Gaza war and the wider Middle East crisis.

The US is on high alert and preparing for a possible attack by Iran targeting Israeli or US assets in the region in response to Israel’s strike on the Iranian embassy in Syria, a US official told the Reuters news agency.

“We’re definitely at a high state of vigilance,” the official said in confirming a CNN report that said an attack could come in the next week.

Iran has said it reserves the right “to take a decisive response” after suspected Israeli warplanes bombed Iran’s embassy in Damascus on Monday. The strike killed an Iranian military commander and marked a major escalation in Israel’s war with its regional adversaries.

More on that in a moment but first, here is a summary of the latest developments:

  • The Israeli military said on Friday that it dismissed two officers and reprimanded three others for their roles in drone strikes in Gaza that killed seven aid workers on a food-delivery mission, saying they had mishandled critical information and violated the army’s rules of engagement.

  • World Central Kitchen has rejected as lacking credibility the findings of an Israeli investigation led by a former general into the coordinated series of Israeli drone strikes on the charity’s vehicles in Gaza.

  • The UN Human Rights Council has demanded a halt in all arms sales to Israel, highlighting warnings of “genocide” in its war in Gaza, which has killed more than 33,000 people.

  • More than three dozen congressional Democrats – including representative Nancy Pelosi, the former House speaker and a key Joe Biden ally – signed a letter to the president and the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, urging a halt to weapons transfers to Israel.

  • The US was looking into a media report that the Israeli military has been using artificial intelligence to help identify bombing targets in Gaza, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told CNN in an interview on Thursday.

  • The Guardian has revealed the identity of the commander of Israel’s Unit 8200, which is a closely guarded secret. He occupies one of the most sensitive roles in the military, leading one of the world’s most powerful surveillance agencies, comparable to the US National Security Agency. Yet after spending more than two decades operating in the shadows, the controversial spy chief – whose name is Yossi Sariel – has left his identity exposed online.

  • The UN secretary general, António Guterres, said he sincerely hoped Israel quickly and effectively boosted aid access to the Gaza Strip, describing the situation in the Palestinian territory after six months of war as “absolutely desperate”. He was “deeply troubled” by reports that the Israeli military has been using artificial intelligence to help identify bombing targets in Gaza.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *