Middle East crisis live: Iran destroys ‘Sunni militant bases’ in Pakistan; US launches fresh Red Sea strikes against Houthis | Middle East and north Africa


Julian Borger

Julian Borger

Iran has launched airstrikes on Pakistan territory, apparently aimed at a Sunni militant group, in the latest sign of a wave of violence rolling across the Middle East and beyond.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry said two children were killed and three others were injured in what it called an “illegal” airstrike, and summoned Tehran’s senior diplomat in Islamabad to protest against the “unprovoked violation of its airspace”.

The ministry did not give more details of the strikes, but Pakistani social media accounts said missile and drone strikes had been aimed at the Balochistan province which lies along the 1,000km border between the two countries.

In Iran, it was reported that the strikes were aimed at bases of a Sunni militant group, Jaish al-Adl, but references to the attack in Iranian media quickly disappeared.

Iran and Pakistan have long had a tense relationship, in large part because of the activities of Balochi separatists and other militant groups in the border area. However, this would mark a significant escalation on the territory of its nuclear-armed neighbour.

Read the rest of our world affairs editor’s report here:

Updated at  03.07 CET

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Iraq has recalled its ambassador from Iran, condemning as a “clear act of aggression” deadly missile strikes by its ally on the autonomous Kurdish region.

Iraq challenged Iran’s claim that the strikes targeted Israel’s intelligence services, Agence France-Presse reports.

It said it would lodge a complaint with the UN security council over the Iranian “attack on its sovereignty”.

Four people were killed and six wounded in the strikes on Iraqi Kurdistan, the region’s security council said.

The dead included prominent real estate magnate Peshraw Dizayee who was hit by a strike on his family home, the region’s leading party, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, said.

Read the rest of our report on Iran’s strikes in Iraq here:

Japan’s Nippon Yusen says it is joining other major shipping firms in suspending routes through the Red Sea in response to the Houthi attacks on vessels in the vital waterway.

A spokesperson for Nippon Yusen told Agence France-Presse:

We have suspended navigation through the Red Sea by all ships we operate

Adding the decision was to “ensure the safety of crews.”

US and British forces have been bombing since Friday scores of targets inside Houthi-controlled Yemen in response to the attacks by the group, who say they are targeting Israeli-linked shipping in the Red Sea in solidarity with Gaza.

The key route between Asia and European markets normally carries about 12 percent of global maritime trade, says AFP.

The Biden administration is expected to announce plans to redesignate the Houthi rebels in Yemen as specially designated global terrorists, Associated Press reports.

The three people familiar with the decision were not authorised to comment and requested anonymity to discuss the matter ahead of the expected formal announcement, AP says.

The administration is expected to make the announcement on Wednesday, according to the US official.

Secretary of state Antony Blinken delisted the Houthis as both foreign terrorist organisations and as specially designated global terrorists in February 2021, in an effort to make it easier to get humanitarian aid into Yemen.

The re-designation is not completely unexpected. Asked during an exchange with reporters last week if he thought the Houthis are a terrorist group, President Joe Biden responded, “I think they are.”

Patrick Wintour

Patrick Wintour

The UN-recognised government of Yemen has urged the UK to change its policy in Gaza and back an immediate ceasefire.

The call was made by Ahmad bin Mubarak, the foreign minister of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, during a phone conversation on Tuesday with the British Middle East minister, Lord Ahmad.

He said it was imperative that a ceasefire be implemented immediately in Gaza, according to the read-out provided by the Yemeni side. The call means both sides in Yemen’s civil war – the UN-recognised government and the Houthi rebels – support an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

The UK says it would only support a ceasefire that is sustainable, which is defined by ministers as one reached after Hamas is no longer able to pose a security threat to Israel.

On Monday in the Commons the UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak, insisted no connection should be drawn between Gaza and the US-UK strikes in Yemen, but that is not a widely shared view as the Houthis say they are undertaking strikes on commercial shipping to put pressure on Israel to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Read the rest of our Diplomatic editor’s report here:

Updated at  02.37 CET

Deal to allow delivery of medicines to hostages in Gaza and the territory

A deal to allow the delivery of medicines to hostages in Gaza and aid into the territory has been agreed after mediation by Doha and Paris, Qatar and Israel have announced.

In a statement to the official Qatar news agency (QNA), Doha announced the deal “between Israel and (Hamas), where medicine along with other humanitarian aid is to be delivered to civilians in Gaza … in exchange for delivering medication needed for Israeli captives in Gaza”, Agence France-Presse reports.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office confirmed the deal and said: “The medicines will be forwarded by Qatari representatives in the Gaza Strip to their final destination.”

The drugs are intended for 45 hostages, according to the French presidency, which said 83 were initially identified as needing medication in November, but 38 have since been released or killed.

After the medicines arrive at a hospital in the southern Gaza border town of Rafah on Wednesday, they will be received by the International Committee of the Red Cross, divided into batches and immediately transferred to the hostages.

The deliveries will go on for three months.

Prime Minister’s Office Statement

On instruction from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and pursuant to the Director of the Mossad’s agreement with Qatar on providing medicines to the Israeli hostages –

— Prime Minister of Israel (@IsraeliPM) January 16, 2024

American forces have destroyed four anti-ship missiles in Yemen. The US said the missiles threatened civilian and military vessels.

These latest strikes come as attacks by the Houthis continue, despite multiple strikes against them.

It is at least the third time in less than a week that the United States has carried out strikes against the Houthis, Agence France-Presse reports, after the group took aim at merchant vessels in the vital Red Sea shipping lane. The Houthis say the attacks are in support of Palestinians in the Israel-Gaza war.

“U.S. Forces struck and destroyed four Houthi anti-ship ballistic missiles prepared to launch from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen”, the US Central Command (Centcom) said in a statement.

Centcom also said the Houthis launched an anti-ship ballistic missile into international shipping lanes on Tuesday and that a Maltese-flagged bulk carrier, Zografia, reported that it was hit but remained seaworthy.

The vessel had been heading north to the Suez Canal when it was attacked, the Greek Shipping and Island Policy Ministry said.

U.S. Conducts Strikes in Yemen as Houthi Attacks Against International Shipping Continue

On Jan. 16 at approximately 1:45 p.m. (Sanaa time), Iranian-backed Houthi militants launched an anti-ship ballistic missile from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen into international… pic.twitter.com/uUCs9qcBPu

— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) January 16, 2024

Updated at  02.33 CET

Julian Borger

Julian Borger

Iran has launched airstrikes on Pakistan territory, apparently aimed at a Sunni militant group, in the latest sign of a wave of violence rolling across the Middle East and beyond.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry said two children were killed and three others were injured in what it called an “illegal” airstrike, and summoned Tehran’s senior diplomat in Islamabad to protest against the “unprovoked violation of its airspace”.

The ministry did not give more details of the strikes, but Pakistani social media accounts said missile and drone strikes had been aimed at the Balochistan province which lies along the 1,000km border between the two countries.

In Iran, it was reported that the strikes were aimed at bases of a Sunni militant group, Jaish al-Adl, but references to the attack in Iranian media quickly disappeared.

Iran and Pakistan have long had a tense relationship, in large part because of the activities of Balochi separatists and other militant groups in the border area. However, this would mark a significant escalation on the territory of its nuclear-armed neighbour.

Read the rest of our world affairs editor’s report here:

Updated at  03.07 CET

Welcome and opening summary

Hello and welcome to our latest blog on the Middle East crisis, it’s 2:39am in Gaza and Tel Aviv and 4:09am in Tehran. I’m Reged Ahmad and I’ll be with you for the next while.

Iran has launched airstrikes in Pakistan on what it described as bases for a Sunni militant group, potentially further raising tensions in region already inflamed by Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip.

The US also launched a new strike against the Yemen-based Houthis on Tuesday, hitting anti-ship missiles in the third assault on the group in recent days, the US military said. That was after the Houthis claimed responsibility for a missile attack against the Malta-flagged bulk carrier Zografia, also on Tuesday, in the Red Sea.

The ship was hit, but no one was injured. The vessel had been heading north to the Suez Canal when it was attacked, the Greek Shipping and Island Policy Ministry said.

We’ll have more on that in a moment but first, here’s a summary of the latest developments:

Aid agencies have begun suspending vital operations in Yemen after the recent US and UK strikes on Houthi targets, amid warnings that further military intervention risks deepening one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

US Central Command said in a statement on Tuesday that it had seized Iranian advanced conventional weapons bound for Yemen’s Houthis on 11 January. It was the first seizure of “lethal Iranian-supplied advanced conventional weapons” to the Houthis since Houthi attacks against merchant ships began in November, the statement added.

Iraq condemned on Tuesday Iran’s “aggression” on Erbil that led to civilian casualties in residential areas, according to a statement by the country’s foreign ministry, after Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said they attacked Israel’s “spy headquarters” in Iraq’s Kurdistan region.

A US state department spokesperson has said that an Iranian attack near Iraq’s northern city of Erbil on Monday “undermine Iraq’s stability.” “We oppose Iran’s reckless missile strikes,” Matthew Miller said, adding that the US supported “the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government’s efforts to meet the aspirations of the Iraqi people.”

France has accused Iran of violating Iraq’s sovereignty after the strikes, Reuters reported.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have also claimed an attack in Syria. The group said it had fired a number of ballistic missiles at “terrorist operations” in the country – including Islamic State targets – and destroyed them. A US defence official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the US tracked the missiles, which hit in northern Iraq and northern Syria, and initial indications were that the strikes were “reckless and imprecise”.

Turkey said it had destroyed 23 targets in overnight airstrikes on Kurdish militants in northern Iraq and Syria, a further escalation of conflict south of its border.

At least 24,285 Palestinians have been killed and 61,154 have been wounded in Israeli strikes on Gaza since 7 October, the health ministry in the territory said in a statement on Tuesday. In the past 24 hours, 158 Palestinians were killed and 320 wounded, the ministry added.

Arab countries are not keen to get involved in the rebuilding of Gaza if the Palestinian enclave will be “levelled” again in a few years, US secretary of state Antony Blinken said on Tuesday, adding that the Palestinian statehood question needed to be addressed.

The EU has sanctioned the Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar and added him to the group’s terrorist list. As a result, Sinouar is subject to the freezing of his funds and other financial assets in EU member states. The sanctions also prohibit EU operators from making funds or economic resources available to him.

A number of European states, “concerned” Arab countries and the United States are working on a concept for a unified Palestinian government that could attract reconstruction funds, Norway’s foreign minister said in an interview in Davos. Specific countries were not named.

Requiring Israel to agree to a time-bound, mandatory path to a two-state solution is key to future stability in Israel and the Palestinian territories, Qatar’s prime minister said on Tuesday during the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos.

The Israeli military said on Tuesday its troops killed dozens of Palestinian militants around the town of Beit Lahia in northern Gaza and also uncovered about 100 rocket launchers. “During IDF activity in the area of Beit Lahia, the troops located approximately 100 rocket set-installations and 60 ready-to-use rockets. The troops killed dozens of terrorists during the activity,” it said.

Aid officials in Gaza believe that pockets of famine already exist in the territory, with parents sacrificing remaining food for their children, an apple costing $8 and fuel for cooking almost impossible to find, the Guardian’s Jason Burke reported. UN agencies have said that Gaza urgently needs more humanitarian assistance as Palestinian authorities reported that the death toll in the territory during the Israeli offensive there had risen to more than 24,000.

Egyptian authorities reportedly thwarted a drug smuggling attempt on the Egyptian-Israeli border on Monday. Two security sources told the Reuters news agency that there was an exchange of gunfire close to a crossing where aid deliveries for Gaza were being inspected. During the incident, six drug smugglers were arrested, the sources said.





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