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A fighter jet crashed in the central desert of Iran on Tuesday, killing both the aircraft’s pilots, local media reported.

The aircraft crashed at the Anarak training site near the central city of Isfahan, Iran’s semiofficial Tasnim news agency reported. The agency, which is close to the country’s military, did not identify the cause of the crash, and said authorities were investigating.

Iran’s air force has an assortment of US-made military aircraft purchased before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. It also has Russian-made MiG and Sukhoi planes. Decades of Western sanctions have made it hard to obtain spare parts and maintain the aging aircraft. Crashes occasionally happen among its faltering fleet. In February, a fighter jet plunged into a soccer pitch in the country’s northwestern city of Tabriz, killing both pilots and a civilian.

Iran is believed to have modeled its F-7 fighter after China’s jet J-7 that is considered a copy of the Soviet-era MiG-21. Beijing built the aircraft for export to countries including Pakistan, Iran, Sudan and North Korea. Iranian pilots for years have used the F-7 for training, with some mishaps.

Four years ago, an F-7 similarly crashed near Isfahan during an aerial exercise because of what was later described as a technical problem.

Arabic and international

Haniyeh: We will not allow the Palestinian cause to be liquidated

Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas political bureau, said today, Sunday, that the resistance in Palestine will not allow any project aimed at liquidating the Palestinian cause, and Palestine is not for bargaining.
And “QudsNet” agency confirmed, this evening, Sunday, that Haniyeh’s statements came during a speech at a large public festival in the city of Sidon in southern Lebanon, organized by the “Hamas” movement, entitled “We will see it soon.”
Ismail Haniyeh stressed that the return of Palestinian refugees to Palestine is close, stressing that “our people adhere to their principles and rights, foremost of which is the right to return to Palestine,” adding that the refugees are the definitive evidence of the rejection of the alternative homeland.
Haniyeh stated that “there is no future for the Zionist occupation on the land of Palestine,” stressing that “the sword of Jerusalem will remain legislated until the liberation and return to Palestine.” And the resistance has the vision to determine the common denominator in front of the big change in the region.”
The head of the political bureau of Hamas stated that the movement is open to all countries, parties and the axis of resistance, and has a clear and known strategic position, noting that “the besieged Gaza that raised the sword of Jerusalem is today, with its resistance, preparing for a strategic battle with this Zionist enemy.”
Haniyeh was not satisfied with that, but he reiterated “Hamas’ position rejecting normalization with the Zionist occupation from anyone,” adding: “Those who betrayed the cause see liberation and victory as far away, and we, who are holding on to the coals of the homeland, legislators of the sword of Jerusalem, will see it soon.”

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Arabic and international

Israeli PM convenes Cabinet before parliament is dissolved

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett convened what is likely his last Cabinet meeting as premier on Sunday, with parliament expected to dissolve itself this week, triggering new elections in the fall.

Bennett’s decision to head to elections puts an end to an ambitious political project that united eight ideologically disparate parties that chose to put aside their differences to oust former leader Benjamin Netanyahu, the current opposition leader, who now has an opening to return to lead the country. The elections, the fifth the country has held in three years, deepen an unprecedented political crisis in Israel.

At the meeting, Bennett listed a series of accomplishments under his year-old government and thanked his coalition partners, which included dovish parties that support Palestinian statehood, nationalist ones who don’t, and for the first time in Israeli history, an Arab political faction.

“It was an excellent government that relied, yes, on a complicated coalition. And here in this room there is a group of people that knew how to put aside ideological disagreements, to rise above, and to work for the state of Israel,” he said.

As part of the power-sharing agreement that brought Bennett to power, he is set to hand over the premiership to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, a centrist former broadcaster, once parliament is dissolved. Elections are expected around the end of October and polls show Netanyahu’s Likud party is expected to garner the most seats.

But as in most rounds of voting during the current political turmoil, Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, has been unable to muster a majority to form a coalition government, with some of his traditional allies refusing to join him. That could further extend the crisis after the upcoming vote.

While Bennett’s government helped steady the economy and navigated the last year of the coronavirus pandemic, it was beset by disagreements over the very issues it sought to avoid, particularly Israel’s 55-year occupation of the West Bank. Bennett said he decided to put an end to his political experiment because the government was unable to renew regulations that enshrine separate legal systems for Jewish settlers in the territory and Palestinians.

Bennett’s own nationalist faction, Yamina, was dogged by defectors, legislators who said the prime minister, a former settler leader, had veered too much toward the center in his bid to keep the coalition intact.

Bennett, who entered politics a decade ago, hasn’t said whether he’ll run in the upcoming elections.

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Arabic and international

Israel human rights group targets West Bank settlements expansion

Israeli settlement construction on Palestinian land in the West Bank has increased dramatically under the recently dissolved coalition government, a report by an Israeli human rights organization reveals.

In a survey published on June 25, the Israeli Peace Now movement said that since the current government took office in June 2021, the building of new settlement units in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, has risen by 62 percent compared with the previous Benjamin Netanyahu leadership.

Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on June 20 announced a deal to dissolve the parliament, appointing Lapid as prime minister of an interim government, and triggering early elections.

The decision follows “exhausting attempts to stabilize the coalition,” a joint statement said.

The Peace Now report shows that despite its commitment to a status quo regarding the occupation, a year after the government took office, it not only continued the policies of previous governments, but also stepped up the settlement project and the oppression of Palestinians.

The report indicated a 26 percent increase in planning housing units in settlements — 7,292 compared with an annual average of 5,784 housing units under the Netanyahu government.

Six new outposts and a new settlement in Hebron, the first in 40 years, were among the government’s approvals.

The Bennett-Lapid government deepened the expulsion policy of Palestinians and their restriction to the constrained enclaves in Areas A and B.

As of June 6, the Israeli civil administration had demolished 639 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C, causing 604 people to lose their homes.

In East Jerusalem, 189 structures were demolished and 450 Palestinians left homeless.

According to the Peace Now report, only 10 building permits were granted for Palestinians, compared with 1,448 housing units whose construction began in the settlements in the second half of 2021 and 2,526 in the entire year.

Under the Bennett-Lapid government, 86 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces in the West Bank alone compared with 41 under the Netanyahu governments.

Khalil Al-Tafkaji, a Palestinian expert specializing in settlement affairs and director of the map department at the Arab Studies Association in Jerusalem, told Arab News: “The Israeli right is in agreement on two things: Settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and it was a fierce competition between the two governments as to who accelerates the increase in settlements.”

The Israeli settlements program in the Palestinian territories has been “green lighted” by all Israeli governments as they seek to raise the number of settlers to 1 million in the West Bank and East Jerusalem by 2025, Al-Tafkaji said.

“All Israeli parties, without exception, do not think of giving the Palestinians a state, but rather see them living in cantons surrounded by settlements and their streets on all sides,” he said.

“The settlers are now leading an intifada of physical attacks against the Palestinians and their property in the West Bank because of their high number and sense of absolute power.”

The Bennett-Lapid government declared 22,000 dunams of land as a nature reserve in the Nachal Og area, south of Jericho. It continued the trend of the Netanyahu government in changing the reality in the Temple Mount (the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound) and the erosion of the status quo.

The supporters of a two-state solution in the Israeli government have failed to stop these actions and left the policies regarding the occupation to those who support the settlement project.

Settlement activity across the West Bank flourished during former US President Donald Trump’s time in power, even though it was considered illegal under international law and threatened the two-state solution.

Palestinians see it as one of the main obstacles to establishing an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.

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