- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 3, 2010

ISRAEL

Beaches closed over floating bombs

JERUSALEM | Palestinian militants claimed Tuesday they had sent a barrage of floating barrels filled with explosives toward Israel’s beaches to avenge the killing of a Hamas leader in the Gulf emirate of Dubai.

Police cordoned off beaches, ordered surfers out of the water and deployed robotic bomb squads along a large swath of southern Israel’s coastline after two explosive-laden barrels washed up on shore, ready to blow up.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Hamas and hinted at retaliation.

Abu Saed, a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, a Gaza faction with close ties to Hamas, said the attack was meant to avenge the killing last month of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a veteran Hamas operative who Israeli defense officials say was involved in smuggling rockets into Gaza.

Hamas says Israeli Mossad agents ambushed al-Mabhouh in his Dubai hotel room, immobilized him with an electrical shock and strangled him to death. Israel has refused to comment on the allegations.

A joint statement from Popular Resistance Committees and two other small factions — Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades — said they sent eight bombs and detonated them by remote control. Hamas did not sign the statement.

On Monday afternoon, a barrel bomb washed up on the beach of Ashkelon, about nine miles north of Gaza. A few hours later, another one was found at Ashdod, 6 miles farther north. Each had about 22 pounds of explosives, police said. The second barrel blew up as a police robot was examining it, sending the tractor-like device tumbling through the air, according to witnesses. A police bomb squad defused the other one. No one was hurt.

IRAN

Neighbors urged to shun U.S. missile system

TEHRAN | Iran said Tuesday that the strengthening of U.S. missile defense systems in Gulf Arab countries is aimed at sowing regional divisions and that Tehran’s neighbors should not be drawn into thinking the country poses a threat.

U.S. military officials said over the weekend that the systems — involving upgraded Patriot missiles on land and more U.S. Navy ships capable of destroying missiles in flight — is intended to counter a potential Iranian missile strike.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met Tuesday with the visiting crown prince of Qatar, one of four Arab nations where the U.S. has based Patriot missile systems, and told him the West was seeking to divide them.

In a January speech, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the U.S. Central Command chief who is responsible for military operations across the Middle East, said the U.S. now has eight Patriot missile batteries stationed in the Gulf region — two each in four countries. A military official said over the weekend that the countries are Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar.

IRAN

Link denied to weapons seized in Thailand

TEHRAN | Iran on Tuesday denied claims by Thailand that a planeload of North Korean weapons seized there in December was headed to Iran.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Iran had no need to import such arms due to its own weapons industry, which includes rockets, tanks, jet fighters, light submarines and missiles.

Thailand said Monday that the aircraft, which was seized on a refueling stop, was heading to Iran, though it did not know the ultimate destination of the 35 tons of weaponry.

The shipment, which violated U.N. sanctions against North Korea, reportedly included light battlefield arms such as grenades, which are not thought to be in high demand by Iran’s sophisticated military.

There has, however, been speculation that the weapons were destined for some of the radical Middle Eastern groups supported by Tehran.

LEBANON

Body recovered 9 days after plane crash

BEIRUT | A body presumed to be one of the 90 people on board the Ethiopian airliner that crashed into the sea off Beirut nine days ago has been recovered, Lebanese officials said Tuesday.

The Lebanese navy spotted the body of a male floating in the sea 3 miles off the coastal town of Naameh, an army spokesman told Agence France-Presse.

It would bring to 15 the number of bodies recovered from the Boeing 737-800 that crashed into the sea soon after takeoff from Beirut airport during a raging thunderstorm early on Jan. 25.

No survivors from Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409 have been found.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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