UK, Israel to work together to stop Iran gaining nuclear weapons

UK’s Foreign Minister Liz Truss. (AFP/File)
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Updated 29 November 2021

UK, Israel to work together to stop Iran gaining nuclear weapons

Britain and Israel will “work night and day” in preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power, the foreign ministers of the two countries wrote in a joint article.
“The clock is ticking, which heightens the need for close cooperation with our partners and friends to thwart Tehran’s ambitions,” the UK’s Liz Truss and her Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid wrote in the Telegraph newspaper on Sunday.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said earlier in the day that his country was “very worried” that world powers will remove sanctions on Iran in exchange for insufficient caps on its nuclear program, as negotiators convene in Vienna on Monday in a last-ditch effort to salvage a nuclear deal.
Meanwhile, Israel and Britain will sign a 10-year agreement on Monday to work closely on areas such as cybersecurity, technology, trade and defense, according to the Telegraph.
The foreign ministers added in the article that Israel will officially become Britain’s “tier one” cyber partner, in a bid to improve its cyber defenses as countries around the world face increased threats.


Sudan frees medics held in crackdown on anti-coup protests

Updated 5 sec ago

Sudan frees medics held in crackdown on anti-coup protests

KHARTOUM: Sudan on Tuesday released nine medics from Doctors Without Borders, the aid group said, a day after they were arrested during a broadening crackdown on anti-coup protests.
“During the evening of 24 January, nine MSF staff members were detained by the Sudanese authorities in the capital Khartoum,” the group said in a statement, using its French acronym.
They were detained as they were making their way back to their office from a hospital, said the organization.
“MSF’s emergency medical teams are working in Khartoum to support the health authorities with their response to injuries from ongoing protests and Covid-19,” the statement said.
The team was released on Tuesday morning, it added.
Among those arrested were staff members from both Sudan and other countries, according to the pro-democracy Central Committee of Sudan Doctors.
Sudan has been rocked by protests calling for civilian rule since an October 25 military coup led by general Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan.
The military takeover derailed a power-sharing transition between the military and civilians that had been painstakingly negotiated after the 2019 ouster of longtime autocrat Omar Al-Bashir.
The crackdown on anti-coup demonstrations has left at least 76 people dead and hundreds wounded, according to the doctors’ committee.
Hundreds of people have also been rounded up in the crackdown, including pro-democracy activists.
On Saturday, a leading women’s rights campaigner, Amira Othman, was arrested following a raid on her home in Khartoum, according to a statement by the “No to Women’s Oppression” initiative which she leads.
Other activists from the “resistance committees,” informal groups which have been instrumental in organizing the anti-coup protests, were also detained late Sunday, according to members who requested anonymity because they feared reprisals.
The United States has slammed the protest crackdown.
On Tuesday, the US Bureau of African Affairs said Sudan’s military leaders had committed to dialogue to resolve the crisis in the country during a visit last week by senior US diplomats to Khartoum.
“Yet their actions — more violence against protesters, detention of civil society activists — tell a different story, and will have consequences,” the bureau said on Twitter.
Sudan is one of the world’s poorest countries and has seen vital foreign aid cut as part of the international community’s condemnation of the coup.

Israeli expert panel advises fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose for adults

Updated 25 January 2022

Israeli expert panel advises fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose for adults

  • Israel is already offering a second booster to everyone over the age of 60 and those at high risk
  • Israel has been on the leading edge of vaccine distribution since they were approved by health authorities in late 2020

JERUSALEM: An expert panel on Tuesday advised the Israeli government to begin offering a fourth vaccine dose to everyone over the age of 18, citing research showing it helps prevent COVID-19 infection and severe illness.
The advisory committee said research shows a fourth dose provides three to five times the level of protection against serious disease and double the protection against infection compared to three doses. The Health Ministry’s director must approve the recommendation.
Israel is already offering a second booster to everyone over the age of 60 and those at high risk as it struggles to contain a wave of infections fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant. It began offering third doses to the general population last summer.
Figures from Israel’s Health Ministry show there are currently some 580,000 active patients, with just 845 listed as seriously ill. Nearly half the population has received a third dose and more than 600,000 have gotten a fourth. Israel has reported 8,487 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Israel has been on the leading edge of vaccine distribution since they were approved by health authorities in late 2020. It has gathered extensive data that is informing other countries’ responses to the pandemic.


Egypt approves Merck COVID-19 pill, says to be produced locally

Updated 24 January 2022

Egypt approves Merck COVID-19 pill, says to be produced locally

CAIRO: Egypt approved Merck & Co’s COVID-19 pill Molnupiravir for emergency use, the country’s drug authority said on Monday, adding that the pill would be locally produced.
The drug will initially be manufactured by five local companies, to be joined later by several other firms, the Egyptian Drug Authority said in a statement.


Three killed as Sudanese security forces crack down on protest

Updated 25 January 2022

Three killed as Sudanese security forces crack down on protest

  • Some 76 civilians have been killed and more than 2,000 injured in crackdowns on the protests

KHARTOUM: Three demonstrators were killed on Monday when Sudanese security forces fired live rounds and teargas during protests against military rule that attracted tens of thousands of people across the country, medics said.
Such protests, along with barricades throughout the capital and a general strike last week, have continued since the military took power on Oct. 25, ending a partnership with civilian political parties since the removal of Omar Bashir as Sudan’s ruler in 2019.
Some 76 civilians have been killed and more than 2,000 injured in crackdowns on the protests, according to the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, which is aligned with the protest movement, mainly by gunshots and teargas canisters.
“Our people are protesting peacefully and using all forms of nonviolent resistance towards a free, democratic and just country, only to be confronted by the military with the worst crimes,” the doctors’ group said.
Two protesters were killed in a protest in Khartoum, one shot in the chest and the other in the head, the group said. Other protesters were injured in the capital Khartoum and the city of Omdurman, they said.
Police could not immediately be reached for comment.
Sudan’s military leaders have said the right to peaceful protest is protected. The Sovereign Council, Sudan’s highest authority, run by the military, received a briefing on the work of a committee investigating protester deaths, it said in a statement.
The violence has deepened the deadlock between pro-democracy groups and the military leadership.
A Reuters witness saw security forces using teargas and stun grenades as protesters stood 1.2 km (0.75 miles) from the presidential palace.
In the cities of Bahri and Omdurman, Reuters witnesses saw a heavy security presence and teargas fired on a main road.
The protests were called by neighbourhood resistance committees, which advocate a stance of “no legitimacy, no negotiation, no partnership” towards the military.
One committee reported the arrest of at least four members. Another said its headquarters were raided.
Large protests were held in the city of Madani, where witnesses said protesters marched towards the house of a protester killed on Friday before heading to the state government building.
The third protester was killed there, with gunshots to the head and shoulder, the doctors’ committee said.
Social media users shared images of other protests in the cities of El-Fasher, Shendi, and Elobeid.
Last week, the United States condemned the use of force against protesters, saying it would consider additional measures to hold perpetrators of violence accountable.
Military leader Abdelfattah al-Burhan has appointed deputy ministers to a caretaker government which passed this year’s budget.
On Monday, Abdelghani Alnaeem, former deputy foreign minister under Bashir, confirmed he and more than 100 other diplomats and administrators fired as part of an anti-corruption task force had been reinstated by a judge. “This is a positive step,” he said.
The Sovereign Council on Monday formed a committee to look into appeals of decisions by the taskforce, which was a key point of tension between the military and civilian politicians.


Syria Kurdish forces close in on Daesh-controlled prison wing

Updated 24 January 2022

Syria Kurdish forces close in on Daesh-controlled prison wing

  • Shami said SDF forces advanced after about 300 Daesh militants surrendered early Monday
  • Over a dozen Kurdish fighters and more than 100 militants have been killed in clashes since the assault began

BEIRUT: US-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters deployed inside a prison in northeast Syria on Monday, closing in on the facility’s last wing controlled by militants for days, the force and a war monitor said. The raid follows the surrender of hundreds of Daesh fighters and aims to end one of the most brazen attacks by the group in years.
Forces took over buildings near the prison’s northern wing, said Farhad Shami, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. That’s where dozens of Daesh militants have been holed up since Thursday.
Shami said SDF forces advanced after about 300 Daesh militants surrendered early Monday.
Over a dozen Kurdish fighters and more than 100 militants have been killed in clashes since the assault began, according to the Kurdish-led force. The number of fugitives remain unclear.
Journalists at the scene said Kurdish officials asked them to step away from the vicinity of the prison earlier Monday, apparently in anticipation of a military operation.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported a buildup of Kurdish forces backed by US armored vehicles around the prison.
Witnesses in the city of Hassakeh, where the prison is located and is under a tight security cordon, said buses arrived at the prison apparently to transport militants who had turned themselves in to another location. Coalition helicopters were hovering overhead, a resident said.
Late on Sunday, the Kurdish-led administration announced a weeklong curfew in Hassakeh starting Monday. Hundreds of city residents have fled the fighting.
The standoff followed a bold assault on Gweiran Prison on Thursday. Militants rammed vehicles through its walls, enabling a number of imprisoned fighters to escape and take hostages. Clashes have continued since then, including with militants holed up in adjacent residential areas. The US-led coalition carried out a number of strikes on suspected militants who had taken control of the prison’s northern wing.
On Sunday, Shami said the militants were using hundreds of minors detained in the prison as human shields. More than 3,000 suspected Daesh militants, including over 600 minors, are held in Gweiran, the largest of a dozen detention facilities in Syria housing militants.
Save the Children and Human Rights Watch said Monday that audio testimony they received suggests that children were among the dead and wounded.
“Reports that children have been killed or injured are tragic and outrageous,” said Sonia Khush, Save the Children’s Syria response director, calling for the immediate evacuation of children.
Many of the boys caught in the fighting have been held in Gweiran for almost three years, including about 300 who are from Iraq and other countries, according to Human Rights Watch.
Letta Tayler, associate crisis and conflict director at HRW, said one foreign boy in an audio message described “a lot of people dead, a lot of people injured.” Tayler said the boy was speaking from the kitchen where he described coming under fire.
It was not clear if the boys, who are normally held in separate wings, were brought to the kitchen after the assault began. Earlier in the assault, SDF officials said the group had lost contact with kitchen staff, suggesting they were among hostages taken by Daesh.
“While the responsibility for this siege rests squarely with (IS), this does not absolve the US-led coalition and the local authorities of their responsibility to take all feasible steps to protect these prisoners from harm, including hundreds of boys trapped inside who have never been charged with any crime,” Tayler said.
Khush, of Save the Children, called for foreign children to be repatriated with their families. “The international community cannot have the blood of any of these children on their hands,” she said.
Rami Abdurrahman, the head of the Observatory, said scores of minors, some as young as 15, had been moved to another prison facility to the south soon after the assault began.
The SDF said about 27 of its fighters were killed in the assault. Abdurrahman put the figure at 52, adding that about 100 militants were killed. The SDF said about 100 escaped and were arrested by the total number of fugitive is still not clear.
Dozen of facilities in northeastern Syria run by the SDF house thousands of suspected Daesh militants, including foreigners, since the defeat of the extremists in 2019. The Kurdish-led administration has said the facilities are a strain on its resources and had repeatedly appealed for countries to repatriate their nationals.
Thousands of Daesh family members and supporters are also held in displacement camps in what amounts to detention facilities mostly for women and children.