A day after President Trump promised to slash the red tape involved in weapons sales, the administration announced on Thursday a new policy that could vastly expand sales of armed drones, a contentious emblem of the shift toward remotely controlled warfare. That change, in addition to a newly released update to the policy governing which nations are allowed to buy sophisticated American-made weapons, is intended to accelerate arms sales, a key priority of Mr. Trump. The president seemed to foreshadow the new policies on Wednesday night, when he said at a news conference with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan that after allies order weapons from the United States, "we will get it taken care of, and they will get their equipment rapidly." "It would be, in some cases, years before orders would take place because of bureaucracy with Department of Defense, State Department," Mr. Trump said. It's now going to be a matter of days.
A drone that took off from Syria and penetrated Israeli airspace in February was armed and on an Iranian mission to carry out an attack in Israeli territory, the Israeli military said Friday. The drone was shattered by helicopter gunships, preventing the attack, according to the military, which did not disclose the supposed target. The February episode set off a day of intense battle, escalating the conflict between Israel and Iran, one of several overlapping conflicts in the Syrian war. Israel's announcement on Friday, hours before the American-led strikes against Syria, added another element of volatility into an already tense region. The strikes launched by the United States, Britain and France against three chemical weapons storage and research facilities did little to assuage Israel's concerns about the Iranian buildup across its northern frontier, according to experts, and the announcement could be intended to bolster Israel's case for taking its own military action against Iran's presence in Syria.
A senior Iranian foreign policy official warned Israel on Tuesday that its strike on an air base in Syria that killed several Iranians would "not remain without a response," the Lebanese news channel Al Mayadeen reported. Seven Iranian military personnel were killed on Monday in the strike on the Tiyas, or T4, air base near Homs, according to the Iranian news agency Tasnim. The semiofficial Fars news agency initially said that three were members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, but the report was later withdrawn without explanation. Syria, Iran and Russia have accused Israel of mounting the attack, though Israel has neither confirmed nor denied involvement. Israel has carried out several strikes in Syria in the past, some aimed at stopping what it says is a military buildup by Iran and its regional ally, Hezbollah, along the Syrian-Israeli border.
Palestinian health officials said 15 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire and more than 750 hit by live rounds Friday, making it the bloodiest day in Gaza since the 2014 cross-border war between Israel and Hamas. In Friday's confrontations, large crowds gathered near the fence, with smaller groups of protesters rushing forward, throwing stones and burning tires. Israeli troops responded with live fire and rubber-coated steel pellets, while drones dropped tear gas from above. Gen. Ronen Manelis, said that while thousands of Palestinians approached the border Friday, those engaged in stone-throwing were in the hundreds. General Manelis denied soldiers used excessive force, saying those killed by Israeli troops were men between the ages of 18 and 30 who were involved in violence and belonged to militant factions.
An American military drone strike over the weekend in southern Libya killed a top recruiter and logistics specialist for Al Qaeda's branch in northwest Africa, the Pentagon said on Wednesday, and a senior military official warned of more attacks on extremists there. The military's Africa Command said in a statement that the attack killed two militants, one of whom was identified as Musa Abu Dawud, a high-ranking official in Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, known as AQIM. Mr. Dawud trained Qaeda recruits in Libya for strike operations in the region, and provided logistics, money and weapons that enabled the group to threaten and attack American and Western interests, the military statement said. Until now, the Pentagon had focused its counterterrorism strikes in Libya -- eight since President Trump took office -- almost exclusively on Islamic State fighters and operatives farther north. Over several months in 2016, the military conducted nearly 500 airstrikes in the coastal city of Surt to destroy the Islamic State's stronghold there.
The United States military carried out its first ever drone strike against Qaeda militants in southern Libya this weekend, signaling a possibly significant expansion of the American counterterrorism campaign in the North African nation. Until now, the Pentagon had focused its counterterrorism strikes in Libya almost exclusively on Islamic State fighters and operatives farther north -- eight since President Trump took office. In 2016, the military conducted nearly 500 airstrikes in the coastal city of Surt over several months to destroy the Islamic State's stronghold there. But the attack on Saturday that the military's Africa Command said had killed two militants -- later identified by a spokeswoman as belonging to Al Qaeda's branch in northwestern Africa -- took place in the country's southwest, a notorious haven for a deadly mix of Al Qaeda and other extremist groups that also operate in the Sahel region of Niger, Chad, Mali and Algeria. "This appears to be the continuation of expanding AFRICOM activity in Libya's ungoverned areas," said Deborah K.
During a recent four-day trip to Marib with a group of Western journalists and researchers, I saw a town struggling for a sense of normalcy -- and even progress -- despite the collapsed country around it. The trip was organized by the Sana Center for Strategic Studies, a research institute focused on Yemen, and led by Farea al-Muslimi, an energetic young Yemeni scholar, who said he worried that the international community was forgetting about Yemen, to the peril of both. "We can't stop the war in Yemen right now, but at least we can cause more conversation about it," he said. "We want to bring the world to Yemen and bring Yemen to the world." Marib's unlikely success is partly a symptom of the near complete shattering of the Yemeni state, which has left regions to fend for themselves in providing life's basics for their people.