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Pakistan Fires Retaliatory Strike at Iran, Stoking Regional Tension

People gather near rubble in the aftermath of Pakistan’s military strike on an Iranian village near Saravan, Sistan-Baluchestan Province, Iran, Jan. 18, 2024 in this screen grab from social media video obtained by REUTERS

Pakistan said it used killer drones and rockets to strike separatist Baloch militants inside Iran on Thursday, in a retaliatory strike two days after Tehran said it attacked the bases of another group within Pakistani territory.

Iranian media said several missiles hit a village in the Sistan-Baluchestan province that borders Pakistan, killing at least nine people, including four children.

The neighbors have had rocky ties in the past, but the strikes are the highest-profile cross-border intrusions in recent years and come amid growing worries about instability in the Middle East since the war between Israel and Hamas erupted on Oct. 7.

“A number of terrorists were killed during the intelligence-based operation,” Pakistan‘s foreign ministry said, describing it as a “series of highly coordinated and specifically targeted precision military strikes against terrorist hideouts.”

“The sole objective of today’s act was in pursuit of Pakistan‘s own security and national interest, which is paramount and cannot be compromised,” the ministry added.

A senior Pakistani security official told Reuters the military was on “extremely” high alert and would meet any “misadventure” from the Iranian side forcefully.

Tehran strongly condemned the strikes, saying civilians were killed, and summoned Pakistan‘s charge d’affaires, its most senior diplomat in Iran, to give an explanation.

“The information received indicates that four children, three women, and two men, who were foreign nationals, have been killed in the explosion that occurred in a village,” Iran’s Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi told state TV.

In Islamabad, a foreign ministry spokesperson said Pakistan‘s caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-haq Kakar would cut short a visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos and return home.

“The precision strikes were carried out using killer drones, rockets, loitering munitions, and stand-off weapons,” a Pakistani military statement said. It said the targets were bases used by the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) and the associated Baloch Liberation Army.

Iran said on Tuesday it had hit targets inside Pakistan that it alleged were bases of Jaish al Adl (JAA). All the targeted groups are ethnically Baloch, but it was not clear if JAA has links with the other two.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan said civilians were hit and two children killed, warning of consequences for which Tehran would be responsible.

Islamabad recalled its ambassador from Iran on Wednesday in protest against a “blatant breach” of its sovereignty.

ESCALATION FEARS

Iran had been flexing its muscles in the region, even before its cross-border incursion into Pakistan.

It launched strikes on Syria against what Tehran said were Islamic State sites and Iraq, where it said it had struck an Israeli espionage center. Baghdad recalled its ambassador from Tehran.

The neighbors had appeared to be improving ties, with Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and Pakistan‘s Kakar meeting at Davos this week, before the Iranian strikes on Pakistan.

Pakistan‘s comments after its retaliatory strikes signal a desire to keep the row contained, but analysts warned it could get out of hand.

“Iran’s motivation for attacking Pakistan remains opaque but in light of broader Iranian behavior in the region it can escalate,” Asfandyar Mir, a senior expert on South Asia security at the US Institute of Peace, told Reuters.

“What will cause anxiety in Tehran is that Pakistan has crossed a line by hitting inside Iranian territory, a threshold that even the US and Israel have been careful to not breach.”

Khwaja Asif, Pakistan‘s defense minister until August, said the action was retaliatory.

“A measured response has been given and it was important,” he told Geo TV. “There should be ongoing efforts on the side that this doesn’t escalate.”

Pakistan‘s international bonds fell after the strikes. Longer-dated bonds slipped as much as 1.3 cents in early trading though they later trimmed losses, according to Tradeweb data..

The targeted militant groups operate in an area that includes Pakistan‘s southwestern province of Balochistan and Iran’s southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan province. Both are restive, mineral-rich, and largely underdeveloped.

The BLF, which Islamabad targeted inside Iran, is waging an armed insurgency against the Pakistani state, including attacks against Chinese citizens and investments in Balochistan.

The Jaish al Adl, which Iran targeted, is also an ethnic militant group, but with Sunni Islamist leanings that primarily Shi’ite Iran sees as a threat.

The group has carried out attacks in Iran against its powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The post Pakistan Fires Retaliatory Strike at Iran, Stoking Regional Tension first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Russia Extends Invitation to Palestinian Factions for Talks in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Photo: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

i24 NewsRussia has extended invitations to various Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Fatah, for discussions on the Israel-Hamas conflict and broader issues in the Middle East.

Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov announced the initiative on Friday, highlighting Moscow’s desire to engage with all major players in the region amid heightened tensions.

The invitation included a dozen Palestinian groups and is slated for “inter-Palestinian” talks scheduled to commence on February 29.

Bogdanov, serving as President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for the Middle East, emphasized the inclusivity of the invitation, stating, “We invited all Palestinian representatives — all political forces that have their positions in different countries, including Syria, Lebanon, and other countries in the region.”

Among the invitees are Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, alongside representatives of Fatah and the broader Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

The invitation comes at a critical juncture as the Israel-Hamas conflict continues to escalate, drawing international attention and concern. Russia’s proactive stance in convening discussions reflects its growing criticism of Israel and its Western allies, underscoring Moscow’s efforts to assert its influence in the region.

The post Russia Extends Invitation to Palestinian Factions for Talks in Moscow first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Netanyahu: Those Who Want us to Desist from Rafah Op Are Telling Us to Lose

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct. 28, 2023. Photo: ABIR SULTAN POOL/Pool via REUTERS

i24 NewsHamas drops its “delusional” demands, productive hostage talks could begin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday, stressing Israel would not agree to the terror group’s current demands.

WATCH: PM Netanyahu delivers a statement after Hamas suspended negotiations pic.twitter.com/nxISPb4JUm

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) February 17, 2024

“I insist that Hamas should abandon its delusional demands – and when it does, we will be able to move forward,” Netanyahu said in a statement live on TV.

“Those who want us to desist from the Rafah operation,” the leader said in an apparent reference to the U.S. administration of President Joe Biden, “are telling us we should lose. We won’t be dictated to.”

The post Netanyahu: Those Who Want us to Desist from Rafah Op Are Telling Us to Lose first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Iran Unveils New Air Defense Weaponry

Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani speaks at a press conference during the unveiling of a new surface-to-surface 4th generation Khorramshahr ballistic missile. Photo: Reuters/West Asia News Agency

i24 NewsIran demonstrated new weaponry on Saturday, including what it said was the locally made Arman anti-ballistic missile system and the Azarakhsh low-altitude air defense system, said the official IRNA news agency. Saturday’s unveiling ceremony of the two vehicle-mounted systems was held in the presence of Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani.

“With the entry of new systems into the country’s defense network, the air defense capability of the Islamic Republic of Iran will increase significantly,” said IRNA.

Video of the new Azarakhsh SHORAD engaging a target drone

It’s radar has a detection range of 50km, with 25km for it’s EO/IR suite https://t.co/cZSCk4AmZj pic.twitter.com/7gEnZh0uef

— Iran Defense|نیروهای مسلح جمهوری اسلامی ایران (@IranDefense) February 17, 2024

The Arman missile system is said to be able to “simultaneously confront six targets at a distance of 120 to 180 km,” while the Azarakhsh missile system “can identify and destroy targets up to a range of 50 km with four ready-to-fire missiles.”

The announcement comes amid tensions across the Middle East, with Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis attacking vessels linked to the United States, UK and Israel in the Red Sea in a show of solidarity with the Gaza Strip.

Iran unveils domestically-manufactured Arman anti-ballistic missile and Azarakhsh low-altitude air defense system https://t.co/69YBsGqT0F pic.twitter.com/PVWlw0sIuj

— Press TV (@PressTV) February 17, 2024

The U.S. and its allies in the Middle East are concerned with Iran’s growing role at the international global arms market, The Wall Street Journal said on Friday. The transformation of the industry, boosted by Russia’s “purchase of thousands of drones that altered the battlefield in Ukraine, has helped Tehran scale up its support of militia allies in Middle East conflicts,” read the report.

The post Iran Unveils New Air Defense Weaponry first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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