Iran threatens to build nuclear bomb if attacked by Israel

Iran has never been closer to building a nuclear bomb than right now
Iran has never been closer to building a nuclear bomb than right now - ATTA KENARE/AFP

This blog was closed on the 18th April 2024. You can follow today’s live coverage of Israel’s retaliatory attack against Iran here.

Iran said it could review its “nuclear doctrine” in an apparent threat to build an atomic bomb if attacked by Israel.

“A review of our nuclear doctrine and politics as well as considerations previously communicated is entirely possible,” Ahmad Haghtalab, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander in charge of nuclear security, said on Thursday.

It is the first time Iran has explicitly mentioned its suspected nuclear weapons program since it attacked Israel on the weekend.

Experts have warned that Iran is on the “threshold” of becoming a nuclear power and that it is capable of building a bomb in six months to a year.

Iran has always claimed that its nuclear enrichment sites are for civilian purposes.

The move comes amid fears of an Israeli attack in retaliation for Iran launching more than 300 drones, rockets and missiles on its territory last weekend.

Mr Haghtalab warned that Iran would “definitely” reciprocate any Israeli attack on its nuclear sites.

03:58 PM BST

Comment: Biden has capitulated to the Left, and America’s allies are paying the price

The president is too tied-up in his domestic squabbles to bother defending America’s beleaguered allies, writes Isaac Schorr.

Donald Trump’s relationship with and attitude toward Vladimir Putin’s Russia – and perhaps even more notably all of the ceaseless speculation about it – defined his first term in office.

There was a weak, often tawdry, and sometimes preposterous case against Trump on these grounds, and then there was a more reasonable one. Both centered around this basic formulation: Trump was inclined to go easy on the Russians because he viewed them as a domestic political asset.

There are damning arguments to be marshaled against Trump for having done just that. And yet, it’s his once and future general election opponent, President Joe Biden, who is more plainly guilty of such a sin.

Indeed, while Trump’s lavishing of Putin with praise betrayed a woeful naivete and propensity to succumb to flattery, Biden’s deeds betray his own misplaced priorities.

Read the full piece

03:26 PM BST

Macron to meet Lebanon PM in Paris Friday

Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, will meet Najib Mikati, Lebanon’s prime pinister, and army chief Joseph Aoun on Friday in Paris, the French presidency said.

The announcement on Thursday comes as Lebanon grapples with a deep economic and political crisis, compounded by cross-border fire between Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah group and neighbouring Israel that has renewed fears of a regional conflict.

03:10 PM BST

US and UK unveil sweeping sanctions on Iran’s drone program

The United States and Britain announced widespread sanctions against Iran’s military drone program on Thursday, in response to its weekend attack against Israel.

Washington is targeting “16 individuals and two entities enabling Iran’s UAV production, including engine types that power Iran’s Shahed variant UAVs, which were used in the April 13 attack,” the Treasury Department said.

Tehran launched its first ever direct military attack on Israel late Saturday in retaliation for an April 1 air strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus - widely blamed on Israel - that killed seven members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, including two generals.

02:45 PM BST

Pictured: Extensive destruction to Al Nuseirat refugee camp after Israeli army’s withdrawal

Palestinians return to the Al Nuseirat refugee camp after the Israeli army's week-long assault on the area
Palestinians return to the Al Nuseirat refugee camp after the Israeli army's week-long assault on the area - Mohammed Saber/Shutterstock

Israeli forces have withdrawn from the area of the Al Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza following several days of violent military operations, according to the Civil Defense Directorate in the war ravaged enclave.

The Directorate said there was “huge scale destruction, including residential buildings and infrastructure” and called the situation “tragic”.

The mayor of Nuseirat, Iyad Maghari, said that roughly 25,000 square meters of roadways, water wells and generators that pumped water had been destroyed.

He added that the sewage system had been ravaged, with more than 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) of pipes destroyed.

The streets and the areas around shelters are swimming with around 20,000 tonnes of waste, said Maghari, causing an increase of vermin in the area that is already riddled with disease.

02:20 PM BST

At least 33,970 Palestinians have been killed since Oct 7

At least 33,970 Palestinians have been killed and 76,770 wounded in Israel’s military offensive on Gaza since Oct 7, the Gaza health ministry has said.

Reuters reports that the Hamas-led ministry figure has increased by 71 deaths since yesterday.

It has not been possible for journalists to independently verify the casualty figures being issued during the conflict.

02:07 PM BST

Lufthansa extends Tehran and Beirut flight suspensions, saying planes will avoid Iranian airspace

German airline giant Lufthansa has extended its suspension of flights to and from Tehran and Beirut until the end of April and said its planes will continue avoiding Iranian airspace.

“Our flights to Tehran and Beirut are canceled up to and including 30 April and we are still not using Iranian airspace until the same date,” a spokesman for the airline told AFP.

Lufthansa aircrafts parked at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany
Lufthansa aircrafts parked at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany - Tobias Schwarz/AFP

01:52 PM BST

In depth: Why nothing stands in the way of Iran building nuclear bombs

Iran has never been closer to building a nuclear bomb than right now.

Tehran insists its nuclear programme is purely for civilian purposes but it has been building up stores of uranium.

For now, the threat of obtaining nuclear weapons is enough for Tehran.

But if the tensions with Israel escalate, that could change “on a dime”, according to the experts for this piece on whether anyone can stop Iran joining the nuclear club.

Our Europe Editor James Crisp has the full story here

01:06 PM BST

Lack of safe water plunges over a million women and girls in Gaza into dire conditions

More than a million women and girls in Gaza are facing inhumane living conditions and critical health risks due to the lack of safe water and basic sanitation services, according to UN Women.

By mid-December, the average per capita daily water consumption in Gaza has reached 1.5 litres, or one-tenth of the minimum amount required under international humanitarian standards for emergencies, said the UN agency.

This is five times less than the amount pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers need to keep themselves and their babies healthy and hydrated.

A mother bathes her child in the makeshift tents where Palestinians are sheltering in the overcrowded city of Rafah
A mother bathes her child in the makeshift tents where Palestinians are sheltering in the overcrowded city of Rafah - Yasser Qudaih/Anadolu via Getty Images

12:50 PM BST

Iran could review its nuclear doctrine amid Israeli threats, warned commander.

Iran could review its “nuclear doctrine”,  a senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander said, according to state media agency Tasnim.

The warning raised concerns about Tehran’s nuclear programme, which it has always maintained was strictly for peaceful purposes.

The remark came after senior ex-Mossad official Zohar Palti told Sky News that Israel was considering striking Iran’s nuclear facilities as a retaliation option after Saturday’s attack.

12:33 PM BST

Aid drop kills Palestinian boy who survived deadly airstrike

A child who survived an Israeli airstrike that destroyed his family’s home in November has been killed by a food aid drop.

Last week, 13-year-old Zein Oroq was struck by a food package in an airdrop as he scrambled to try and get a can of fava beans, some rice or flour.

“While parachutes were falling, an aid box hit his head. Also, the stampede of people who were heading towards the box did not pay attention to the boy – they were also hungry,” said his father, Mahmoud.

“So, his head was cut and wounded, he got fractures in the pelvis, skull and abdomen, and with the flow of people, the pressure increased on him.”

Zein was taken to hospital, where he died on Sunday.

Some 17 members of his family were killed in November when an airstrike hit their house, pinning Zein underneath the rubble of the building.

12:14 PM BST

Google terminates contracts of 28 employees for protest over Israeli cloud contract

Google announced on Thursday that it had terminated the contracts of 28 employees after some staff participated in protests against the company’s cloud contract with the Israeli government, reports Reuters.

The Alphabet united said a handful of protesting employees entered and disrupted colleagues’ work at a number of unspecified office locations.

“Physically impeding other employees’ work and preventing them from accessing our facilities is a clear violation of our policies, and completely unacceptable behavior,” the company said in a statement.

Google said it had concluded individual investigations, according to Reuters, resulting in the termination of 28 employees’ contracts, and would continue to investigate and take action as required.

11:42 AM BST

Sirens in Israel northern border towns warn of a suspected drone attack

Sirens rang out in a number of communities close to Israel’s northern border on Wednesday, warning of a suspected incoming drone strike.

It comes after 14 Israeli soldiers and four civilians were wounded by an explosive drone fired from Lebanon that hit a community centre in the northern border town of Arab al-Aramshe.

The looming attack is in retaliation to the Israeli strike that killed two Hezbollah fighters on Thursday, in the border village of Kafr Kila.

Israel and Hezbollah have been exchanging cross-border fire almost daily since Hamas’s  attack on Israel on Oct 7.

10:47 AM BST

Aid convoy crosses Erez border for first time

A World Food Programme aid convoy carrying enough food for nearly 80,000 people has crossed the Erez crossing into northern Gaza for the first time.

Israel promised to reopen the border two weeks ago, after Joe Biden, the US presdient, warned that future US support for Israel would depend on it taking action to protect civilians and increase the flow of aid.

10:21 AM BST

Reuters’ Mohammed Salem wins 2024 World Press Photo of the Year award

Reuters photographer Mohammed Salem won the 2024 World Press Photo of the Year award on Thursday for his image of a Palestinian woman cradling the body of her five-year-old niece in the Gaza Strip.

The picture was taken on Oct 17 at Nasser hospital in Khan Younis in southern Gaza, where families were searching for relatives killed during Israeli bombing of the Palestinian enclave.

Palestinian woman Inas Abu Maamar, 36, embraces the body of her 5-year-old niece Saly, who was killed in an Israeli strike, at Nasser hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, October 17, 2023.
Palestinian woman Inas Abu Maamar, 36, embraces the body of her 5-year-old niece Saly, who was killed in an Israeli strike, at Nasser hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, October 17, 2023. - REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

10:07 AM BST

Palestinian with alleged Islamic State ties arrested in West Bank on suspicion of planning imminent terror attack

Police detained a Palestinian man allegedly tied to the Islamic State jihadist movement, who planned to carry out a terror attack in “the immediate time fram”.

The suspect was arrested in the West Bank town of Beitunia, near Ramallah, following intelligence provided by the Shin Bet, the Israeli Security Agency, police said.

Officers said the suspect attempted to escape when police reached his home. He was then handed over to the Shin Bet for further interrogation.

09:42 AM BST

China and Indonesia: ‘Would fully support Palestine’s membership in UN’

The Chinese and Indonesian foreign ministers have called for an immediate and lasting ceasefire in Gaza after a meeting in Jakarta.

Retno Marsudi, Indonesia’s foreign affairs minister, told reporters that the two nations shared the same view on the importance of a two-state solution and a ceasefire.

“I am sure that China would use its influence to prevent escalation,” said Ms Marsudi. She added that China and Indonesia “would also fully support Palestine’s membership in the UN”.

Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, blamed the United States for holding up ceasefire resolutions at the UN.

The US “repeatedly vetoed” a number of proposed Security resolutions because they didn’t directly tie a ceasefire to the release of hostages held in Gaza or condemn Hamas’ Oct 7 attack on Israel.

Mr Wang said the conflict in Gaza had caused a “rare humanitarian tragedy in the 21st century”.

09:13 AM BST

Israeli ‘deploys extra weapons’ for looming Rafah offensive

Israel has reportedly deployed extra artillery and armoured personnel to the areas surrounding the Gaza Strip, suggesting that the army is preparing for its long-threatened ground offensive on the city of Rafah.

The IDF confirmed on Tuesday it was buying 40,000 tents to prepare for the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians who have sought shelter in Rafah, the southernmost city in the besieged enclave.

Rafah is the only major urban area in the territory that Israeli ground forces have not yet entered and the only place of relative safety for at least 1.4 million displaced Palestinian civilians.

08:57 AM BST

Pictured: Israel bombs overcrowd Rafah overnight

Israeli bombardment from the air, land, and sea continues to be reported across much of the Gaza Strip, resulting in further civilian casualties, displacement, and destruction of houses and other civilian infrastructure.

More than half of all buildings in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed in the conflict so far
More than half of all buildings in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed in the conflict so far - MOHAMMED ABED/AFP

08:38 AM BST

UN appeals for £2.3bn for aid in Gaza and West Bank

The UN has launched an appeal for almost £2.3 billion to tackle the imminent famine in the Gaza Strip and aid Palestinians in the West Bank.

The UN’s humanitarian agency, OCHA, said the sum was needed to help 3.1 million people and “reduce human suffering and prevent further loss of life”.

A large portion of the funding - £627 million - will be used for food aid for 2.2 million people in the Strip and 400,000 people in the West Bank, said the appeal.

A senior UN aid official said on Tuesday that the United Nations was struggling to prevent famine in the Gaza Strip, and while there had been some improvement in coordination with Israel, aid deliveries still faced significant checkpoint details.

Last week, 41 per cent of UN requests to deliver aid to northern Gaza were denied, said the official.

08:13 AM BST

Hamas’s head of interrogations for internal security killed in airstrike in northern Gaza

The head of interrogations in Hamas’s internal security in northern Gaza’s Beit Hanoun region was killed in an airstrike this week, the IDF and Shin Bet announced.

“This elimination significantly damages the organisation’s investigations department,” said the organisations in a joint statement.

In another recent incident, the IDF reported that the army carried out an airstrike on a vehicle containing at least 10 gunmen, killing them. It says the attack followed “accurate intelligence” on the operatives.

Israeli fighter jets struck a mortar cannon, used to launch missiles at troops operating in the Gaza Strip, in Gaza City’s Rimal neighbourhood, in the north of the enclave.

07:58 AM BST

Israel considered a retaliatory strike on Iran

Israel considered carrying out a strike on Iran in retaliation for last weekend’s unprecedented attack but then aborted the plan, according to Israeli and US media reports.

Israeli public broadcaster Kan reported that following discussions with Joe Biden, the US president, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli president, decided not to proceed with pre-arranged plans for retaliatory strikes on Iran in the event of an attack.

“Diplomatic sensitivities came into play,” a senior Israeli official speaking on condition of anonymity told Kan, adding that there would be a response, but that it would be different from what was initially planned.

Citing three unnamed Israeli sources, ABC News reported: “Israel prepared for and then aborted retaliatory strikes against Iran on at least two nights this past week.”

Among the range of possible reactions considered by the Israeli war cabinet were options to attack Iranian proxies elsewhere in the region or to conduct a cyberattack, the sources told ABC.

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