Palestine has ‘natural, legal right’ to become full state member of UN, Ambassador Riyad Mansour tells Arab News

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Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour attending a UN Security Council meeting in 2018. (AFP file)
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Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour (C) attends the UN Security Council emergency session on Israel-Gaza conflict in New York City. (AFP)
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Palestinians protests against Israeli abuses outside the UNWRA office in Gaza City on September 19, 2022. (AFP)
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A member of Israeli security forces stands guard as Palestinians arrive in large numbers at the Qalandia checkpoint in the West Bank on April 27, 2022. (AFP)
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Israeli police carry a wounded young Palestinian demonstrator at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound on April 22, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 21 November 2022

Palestine has ‘natural, legal right’ to become full state member of UN, Ambassador Riyad Mansour tells Arab News

  • Says Palestine would have been a member state a long time ago if the US did not have the veto power to stop it
  • Expresses gratitude to Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia, for remaining united in support of Palestine at UN

NEW YORK CITY: Granting Palestine full state membership status at the UN would be a “practical” step that could preserve the two-state solution and help reinvigorate the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, according to Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN.

Mansour initiated consultations this year with members of the UN Security Council to push for a resolution to elevate Palestine from its current status as an observer state at the global organization and recognize it as a full member.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News at the UN headquarters in New York, Mansour, whose official title is Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, said his initiative is anchored in Palestine’s “natural and legal right to become a full member in (the) UN system.”

The quest for statehood is all the more urgent, he said, amid Israeli attempts to unilaterally undermine the prospect of a reasonable solution that can deliver an independent Palestinian state, by “creating not only a one-state reality (but) an apartheid reality.”

Mansour said he has already gained enough support from members of the Security Council — including votes from Ireland, Albania and Norway — to secure its recommendation that Palestine be granted full state membership in the General Assembly.

Paulina Kubiak Greer, a spokesperson for the president of the General Assembly, told Arab News: “Article 4 of the UN Charter states that membership is a decision of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council. The General Assembly cannot decide on membership without the recommendation from the Security Council.”

Paulina Kubiak Greer, spokesperson for the president of the UN General Assembly. (UN photo)

Although granting full state membership status to Palestine would be consistent with the current US administration’s pursuit of “practical measures” to achieve a two-state solution, Mansour said Washington “is not enthusiastic about the idea.”

He said: “I told Linda (Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN), in more than one meeting, that if you do not like our idea, put on the table your alternative — a practical idea to shield and protect the two-state solution. But if you tell me you don’t like my idea, and you are not proposing an alternative solution, that is unacceptable.”

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaking at a meeting of the UN Security Council. (AFP file)

Mansour believes the reticence in Washington relates to its preference for a “negotiated two-state solution,” an avenue Mansour said the Palestinians continue to support.

Palestinians “have no objection to negotiating with anyone, including the Israeli side — (provided the talks are conducted) on the basis of international law and the global consensus, including the Arab Peace Initiative — if the Israeli side is willing to do so.”

The Arab Peace Initiative is a Saudi-initiated proposal for an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict that was initially endorsed by the Arab League in 2002. It includes the offer of normalization of relations between Arab states and Israel in return for a full Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories, a “just settlement” of the Palestinian refugee issue, and the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Mansour thanked Arab countries for remaining united in support of Palestine at the UN and never failing to vote in its favor. In particular, he highlighted the role played by Saudi Arabia.

Members of the Arab Peace Initiative Committee meeting in New York on Sept. 21, 2022, on the sidelines of the 77th United Nations General Assembly. (SPA file photo)

“Saudi Arabia has a very, very important and powerful position,” he said. “We are grateful for the fact that Saudis do not deviate from supporting the rights of the Palestinian people. And they don’t deviate from honoring and respecting the Arab Peace Initiative, which they launched 20 years ago at the Arab summit in Beirut.

“We are also grateful for Saudi when they very clearly and courageously, at the Jeddah summit, in the presence of President Joe Biden, said that the Palestine question is a central question for Arab countries and that the Arab Peace Initiative is still honored and respected.

“These things to us constitute the essence of the Arab position (and) we expect from them no less than that.”

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian National Authority, has lately stepped up the push for full state membership status at the UN. Since the summer he has raised the matter with French President Emmanuel Macron and King Abdullah II of Jordan, and with Biden during the US president’s visit to Bethlehem in July.

Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas shows a photo as he speaks at the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 23, 2022 in New York. (Getty Images via AFP/file)  

“The key to peace and security in our region begins with recognizing the state of Palestine,” Abbas told Biden at the time.

The Palestinian National Authority first applied for full membership status of the UN in 2011. It argued that the organization in 1947 adopted Resolution 181, which partitioned Palestinian land into two states, an act that effectively served as “the birth certificate for Israel.” It said the UN now has a “moral and historic duty” to salvage the chances for peace by issuing a similar birth certificate for Palestine.

The matter was referred to the Committee on the Admission of New Members for consideration but opposition at the time from the administration of US President Barack Obama prevented the committee from issuing a unanimous recommendation to the Security Council.

In 2012, a majority in the General Assembly voted to elevate the status of Palestine from a mere “entity” to that of an observer state, the same status granted to the Vatican; 138 countries voted in favor, nine against and 41 abstained.

Delegates cheer as PA President Mahmoud Abbas (upper photo) addresses the UN General Assembly before voting to upgrade Palestine to non-member observer state on Nov. 29, 2012 in New York. (Getty Images/AFP)

The vote was largely symbolic, as observer states cannot vote on General Assembly resolutions, but it nevertheless led to the Palestinians joining more than 100 international treaties and conventions as a state party.

These have allowed Palestinians, Mansour said, “to be part of humanity,” taking their place in the world and sharing in its concerns.

US authorities have sought to convince the Palestinians not to go through with their efforts to gain full membership of the UN, repeating their same arguments that it would merely circumvent proper peace negotiations with Israel.

“The US has been clear about our opposition to the Palestinian bid for full membership at the UN,” a US official told Arab News. “There are no shortcuts to Palestinian statehood outside direct negotiations between the parties.

“The US is focused on trying to bring the Palestinians and Israelis closer together in pursuit of this goal of two states, for two peoples, living side by side in peace and security. The US remains committed to a two-state solution. As President Biden said, alongside President Abbas in July, ‘The Palestinian people deserve a state of their own that’s independent, sovereign, viable and contiguous.’

US President Joe Biden (L) is received by Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas (R) during a welcome ceremony in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on July 15, 2022. (AFP file)

“The only realistic path to a comprehensive and lasting peace that ends this conflict permanently is through direct negotiations between the parties. As we have seen, those conditions are not yet present for direct negotiations. That said, US efforts are aimed at setting such conditions.”

It is a familiar argument that has been applied by the US on previous occasions when the UN adopted measures seen as advancing Palestinian representation on the world stage. Washington described the 2012 resolution granting Palestine observer status as “unfortunate and counterproductive” and a “grand pronouncement that would soon fade.”

In the same vein, Washington also opposed a 2015 decision to allow Palestinians to fly their flag at the UN headquarters in New York. And when Palestine was admitted to UNESCO, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, in 2011, the US Congress cut all US funding for the agency. Former President Donald Trump went so far as to withdraw the US entirely from UNESCO in 2019, accusing it of anti-Israel bias.

Palestinians call for an end to Israeli atrocities during a demonstration next to the UNESCO headquarters in Gaza City on May 16, 2018. (AFP file)

Although a Democrat-controlled Congress recently authorized a US return to UNESCO, it was on the condition that Palestine is not granted membership of other UN bodies. US lawmakers have even enacted legislation prohibiting funding for any UN agency that admits Palestine as a member.

“That offensive reaction means that even the small steps that Palestinians are creating with this initiative, this momentum … I don’t want to say they are afraid of our initiative but they take it seriously,” said Mansour.

After experiencing years of alienation during the Trump administration, Mansour expressed gratitude to the Biden White House for reinstating humanitarian funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, and taking “practical steps” toward achieving peace.

Palestinians receive their monthly food rations from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, on June 14, 2022. It was defunded during the term of US President Donald Trump but Joe Biden restored support when he became president. (AFP)

But he lamented what he described as Biden’s reluctance to deal with the political dimensions of the issue, given that a number of promises, such as the reopening of the US consulate in East Jerusalem and the Palestinian Liberation Organization office in Washington, remain unfulfilled.

“While we appreciate the economic and humanitarian help, (we) need a political process to move (toward) the end of this occupation and actualize the global consensus over the two-state solution,” said Mansour.

“With regard to that issue, we don’t see progress and they keep telling us to wait. We’ve been waiting since the Nakba, almost 75 years. Waiting since the occupation of 1967, which is almost 55 years. How much longer do you want us to keep waiting?

“If (the Americans) did not have the veto power to stop us, then we would have been a member state a long time ago.”


Turkiye, Somalia to deepen military bonds after historic deal

Updated 23 February 2024

Turkiye, Somalia to deepen military bonds after historic deal

  • Ankara needs to ratify deal approved by African nation
  • Turkiye expanding military, economic footprint in Africa, say experts

Ankara: With Somalia partnering with Turkiye to help build its sea and naval capabilities, questions have now arisen about the potential regional impact of the tie-up, and why Ankara is expanding its military footprint overseas, including seeking a greater presence in the Red Sea.

Somalia’s cabinet approved on Wednesday the historic defense deal that authorized Turkiye to defend the African nation’s coastline for the next decade, amid tensions with Ethiopia, and mandated it to build a navy for the country.

Turkiye, whose navy has been operating off Somalia’s shores and in the Gulf of Aden under the UN mission since 2009, will not only build the African country’s navy but also train and equip personnel to counter illegal fishing in the latter’s territorial waters.

Turkiye has also been training Somalia’s soldiers for a few years in a bid to help the country develop its army.

Ankara also has its largest overseas military base in Mogadishu, while a Turkish company is operating the airport of the capital city.

“This agreement will put an end to the fear of terrorism, pirates, illegal fishing, poisoning, abuse and threats from abroad,” Somalia’s Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre was quoted by local press as saying during the cabinet meeting.

“Somalia will have a true ally, a friend, and a brother in the international arena,” he added.

Although the details of the agreement have yet to be disclosed, Somalia’s press claimed that the deal would give Turkiye 30 percent of the revenues coming from the Somali exclusive economic zone, which is rich in marine resources.

Considered a gateway to the continent, Somalia’s 3,025-km coastline is the longest in Africa.

The agreement needs to be ratified by Turkiye’s parliament and the president before being finalized.

Hakan Akbas, a senior advisor at Albright Stonebridge Group, said that this pact shows Turkiye’s growing ambition to become a key player in the Horn of Africa, enhancing its ties with Somalia and Ethiopia but excluding some Ethiopian agreements troubling Mogadishu.

“Turkiye’s recent strategic moves aim to bolster Somalia’s military, promote stability, and protect its interests through security, economic, and humanitarian efforts,” he added.

According to Akbas, this agreement reflects Turkiye’s bold foreign policy and strategy to establish key military and economic partnerships aimed at securing its interests in the region.

“This gives Somalia a very essential partner in matters of national security, counter-piracy, anti-terrorism, and border protection, including against illegal fishing. It is a win-win for both nations,” he said.

Earlier this month, Somalia’s Defense Minister Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur signed the framework agreement in Ankara that mandated Turkiye to protect Somalia’s territorial waters.

For Rashid Abdi, chief analyst at Sahan Research, a Nairobi-based think tank, the deal gives Turkiye huge leverage to reshape Somalia and the Horn of Africa.

“Turkish navy will help rebuild Somali navy and will deploy ships to patrol its maritime Economic Protection Zone. Turkiye is now positioned to become Somalia’s top strategic partner,” he told Arab News.

However tensions still remain high in the region especially after Ethiopia and the breakaway Somaliland reached an agreement granting landlocked Addis Ababa access to the Red Sea and ensuring the recognition of Somaliland as an independent state.

Somaliland is still recognized internationally as part of Somalia although it controversially declared its independence in 1991. The deal had infuriated Somalia which considered it a breach of its territorial sovereignty.

As Ankara also has close ties with Ethiopia and provided it with military drones in 2022, how Turkiye will find a balance between the national interests of both countries remains to be seen especially regarding maritime violations.

Abdi thinks that the agreement will put Turkiye in a tight spot if Ankara seeks to enforce Somali sovereignty in breakaway Somaliland.

“It will also be viewed as provocative by Ethiopia which wants a military base on the Somaliland coast close to Bab Al-Mandeb,” he said.

“Turkiye has huge commercial interest in Ethiopia. Turkiye helped Ethiopian premier end the conflict in Tigray. For the time being, Turkiye will be walking a tightrope. It is therefore uncertain how Ankara will balance the competing demands of its two Horn allies — Ethiopia and Somalia. Ethiopia is a big market, home of the African Union and a regional hegemon. Upsetting Ethiopia and countering its regional interests in Somaliland will put Addis Ababa on a confrontation course with Ankara,” he added.

In December, the UN Security Council lifted its three-decade arms embargo on Somalia’s government.

“The latest defense deal with Somalia is anchored in a meticulously crafted intellectual framework spanning a decade,” said international relations professor Serhat Guvenc of Istanbul’s Kadir Has University.

“Ankara recently announced the provision of a second batch of MILGEM corvettes to the Ukrainian navy. Turkiye’s forthcoming endeavor to assist Somalia in bolstering its naval forces will mark the country’s second significant contribution to a foreign navy,” he added.

According to Guvenc, Turkiye’s strategy in Africa began with bolstering trade and economic ties before seeking to provide military training and high-end Turkish weapons systems.

“Turkiye recently constructed Istanbul-class frigates for its naval forces exemplifying the country’s expanding maritime prowess extending from Istanbul to the Gulf of Aden without requiring refueling stops,” he said.

Turkiye also took part in the multinational Combined Task Force 151 to prevent piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden and off the eastern coast of Somalia. Turkiye took command of the task force six times.

“Turkish Naval Forces have shown a high effectiveness and even in instances where Turkiye didn’t commit ships, its commanders were preferred due to their intimate understanding of regional challenges,” said Guvenc.

Despite acknowledging the strategic significance of the deal, experts caution that its implementation demands substantial investment and logistical capabilities from Turkiye.

“In 2014, Turkish Naval Forces started its circumnavigation of Africa and toured the continent twice. But this time, Turkiye needs to double and maybe triple its naval forces for effective outreach across the vast region,” Guvenc said.

“Overseas bases give countries a significant prestige and put them among countries which have outreach to the remote regions of the world. It is a key indicator for the power hierarchies because it means that the country is able to project strategic power from its naval influence,” he added.

However, Guvenc sees some “political” risks with the deal.

“Turkiye has traditionally refrained from taking part in intra-African conflicts. It has always taken a standing that was above conflicts. But it remains to be seen to what extent it could safeguard Somali interests by force or whether it would have to be involved in local conflicts. It is also technically difficult to protect the exclusive economic zone of Somalia which intersects with issues like illegal fishing activities and potential clashes with other nations in the region,” he said.

Hamas awaiting new truce proposal from mediators’ talks with Israel

Updated 23 February 2024

Hamas awaiting new truce proposal from mediators’ talks with Israel

  • Mediators ramp up efforts to secure a ceasefire in Gaza, in the hope of heading off an Israeli assault on Rafah

CAIRO/RAFAH, Gaza Strip: Hamas wrapped up ceasefire talks in Cairo and is now waiting to see what mediators bring back from weekend talks with Israel, an official from the militant group said on Friday, in what appears to be the most serious push for weeks to halt the fighting.

Mediators have ramped up efforts to secure a ceasefire in Gaza, in the hope of heading off an Israeli assault on the Gaza city of Rafah where more than a million displaced people are sheltering at the southern edge of the enclave.

An Israeli delegation led by the head of the country’s overseas intelligence agency arrived in Paris on Friday to “unblock” talks for a ceasefire in Gaza, an Israeli official said.

Mossad director David Barnea will be joined in the French capital by his counterpart at the domestic Shin Bet security agency, Ronen Bar, Israeli media reported.

Israel says it will attack the city if no truce agreement is reached soon. Washington has called on its close ally not to do so, warning of vast civilian casualties if an assault on the city goes ahead.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh met Egyptian mediators in Cairo to discuss a truce this past week on his first visit since December. Israel is now expected to participate in talks this weekend in Paris with US, Egyptian and Qatari mediators.

Two Egyptian security sources confirmed that Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel would head on Friday to Paris for the talks with the Israelis, after wrapping up talks with Hamas chief Haniyeh on Thursday. Israel has not publicly commented on the Paris talks.

The Hamas official, who asked not to be identified, said the militant group did not offer any new proposal at the talks with the Egyptians, but was waiting to see what the mediators brought back from their upcoming talks with the Israelis.

“We discussed our proposal with them (the Egyptians) and we are going to wait until they return from Paris,” the Hamas official said.

The last time similar talks were held in Paris, at the start of February, they produced an outline for the first extended ceasefire of the war, approved by Israel and the United States. Hamas responded with a counterproposal, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu then rejected as “delusional.”

Hamas, which is still believed to be holding more than 100 hostages seized in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel that precipitated the war, says it will free them only as part of a truce that ends with an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Israel says it will not pull out until Hamas is eradicated.

Late on Thursday, Netanyahu presented his security cabinet with an official plan for Gaza once the fighting stops. He emphasized that Israel expects to maintain security control over the enclave after destroying Hamas, and also sees no role for there for the Palestinian Authority (PA) based in the West Bank.

Washington favors a role for a reformed PA.

Two Palestinian officials familiar with the negotiations said Hamas has not changed its stance in the latest push to reach a deal, and still demands that a truce end with an Israeli pullout.


Israeli planes and tanks pounded areas across Gaza Strip overnight, residents and health officials said. The Gaza health ministry said 104 people had been killed and 160 others were wounded in Israeli military strikes in the past 24 hours.

In Rafah, where over half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are sheltering, an Israeli air strike on a house killed 10 people. Several other air strikes hit throughout the city, worsening fears by the displaced people of expanded Israeli ground operations.

At a morgue in Rafah, a family knelt by the body of their child, killed by overnight Israeli strikes. They tenderly touched and stroked the small body through a shroud.

Airstrikes also killed civilians overnight in Deir Al-Balah, in central Gaza, one of the few other areas yet to be stormed by the Israelis. In video obtained by Reuters, bereaved families crowded a hospital, where Ahmed Azzam held up the body of his dead baby son wrapped in a shroud, shouting: “You killed them Netanyahu. You killed this innocent child!“

At least 29,514 Palestinians have been killed and 69,616 injured in Israeli strikes on Gaza since Oct.7, the Gaza health ministry said in a statement on Friday.

Israel launched its months-long military campaign after militants from Hamas-ruled Gaza killed 1,200 people and took 253 hostages in southern Israel on Oct 7.

In a summary of its operations in Gaza over the past 24 hours, the Israeli military said it had killed dozens of militants, located weapons and destroyed infrastructure in Khan Younis, western Khan Younis, central Gaza and Zaytoun in the north, where it also uncovered tunnel shafts.

Hezbollah says 2 paramedics, fighter dead in Israeli strike on Lebanon

Updated 23 February 2024

Hezbollah says 2 paramedics, fighter dead in Israeli strike on Lebanon

  • Israeli army said late Thursday it had struck a Hezbollah “military compound” in south Lebanon’s Blida

Beirut: Two paramedics affiliated with Hezbollah and one of the group’s fighters have been killed in an Israeli strike on a south Lebanon border village, the group and a security source said Friday.
The Israeli army said late Thursday it had struck a Hezbollah “military compound” in south Lebanon’s Blida, amid near-daily cross-border fire between the arch foes since the Israel-Hamas war broke out on October 7.
The Hezbollah-affiliated Islamic Health Committee said two of its paramedics were killed in a “direct” Israeli attack on a civil defense center in Blida, while Hezbollah also announced the death of one of its fighters.
The Islamic Health Committee said the attack caused “the destruction of the health center as well as a number of ambulances.”
The Lebanese security source, requesting anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media, said a strike on Thursday “targeted the Islamic Health Committee center in the village of Blida.”
The Israeli army said late Thursday that it had identified fighters “entering a Hezbollah military compound in the area of Blida.”
“Fighter jets were scrambled and struck the compound where the terrorists were identified,” it said in a statement.
Hezbollah said it launched a drone attack on northern Israel on Friday in retaliation for strikes “on southern villages and civilian houses, most recently the attack on a civil defense center in Blida.”
The night before, the Iran-backed group said it fired rockets at an Israeli barracks in response to the Blida attack, but did not announced any casualties at the time.
The violence on Israel’s northern border has sparked fears of another full-blown war between Israel and Hezbollah like that of 2006.
Last month, the Shiite Muslim movement said an Israeli strike killed two affiliated medics in south Lebanon’s Hanin, calling it a “blatant attack.”
The Lebanese group, which says it is acting in support of its ally Hamas, on Thursday had already announced rocket fire on Israel after two of its fighters were killed, later calling one of them a “commander” in a funeral notice.
The security source said one of the two killed in an Israeli drone strike in south Lebanon’s Kfar Rumman was involved in the movement’s “rocket capabilities.”
Since October, at least 276 people have been killed on the Lebanese side, most of them Hezbollah fighters but also including 44 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
On the Israeli side, 10 soldiers and six civilians have been killed, according to the Israeli army.

Sudan’s warring sides commit abuses, including strikes on fleeing civilians, UN report says

Updated 23 February 2024

Sudan’s warring sides commit abuses, including strikes on fleeing civilians, UN report says

  • Efforts have so far failed to end the 10-month-old conflict that pits Sudan’s regular armed forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces

GENEVA: Both sides in Sudan’s civil war have committed abuses that may amount to war crimes including indiscriminate attacks on civilian sites like hospitals, markets and even camps for the displaced, the UN human rights office said on Friday.
Efforts have so far failed to end the 10-month-old conflict that pits Sudan’s regular armed forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Thousands of people have been killed and over six million forced to flee their homes, making it the country with the largest displaced population in the world.
“Some of these violations would amount to war crimes,” Volker Turk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement accompanying the report. “The guns must be silenced, and civilians must be protected.”
The US has already formally determined that the warring parties have committed war crimes and said the RSF and allied militias were involved in ethnic cleansing in West Darfur. Both sides have said they would investigate reports of killings and abuses and prosecute any fighters found to be involved.
The United Nations report covers the April-December period and is based on interviews with over 300 victims and witnesses as well as footage and satellite imagery.
It says that sometimes those fleeing for their lives or displaced by the violence became victims of explosive weapons attacks.
In one incident, dozens of displaced people were killed when their camp in Zalingei, Darfur was shelled by RSF between Sept. 14-17, the report said. Some 26 civilians, mostly women and children, were killed on Aug. 22 by shells reportedly fired by the Sudanese Armed Forces while sheltering under a bridge.
The report also says the RSF had adopted a military strategy of using human shields, citing testimonies of victims involved.
It describes incidents in the capital Khartoum where dozens of individuals were arrested and placed outside near RSF military posts to deter air strikes from Sudanese fighter jets.
UN investigators have so far documented cases of sexual violence affecting 118 people, including one women who was detained and repeatedly gang-raped for weeks. Many of the rapes were committed by RSF members, it said.
Reuters has also documented cases of gang rape in ethnically targeted attacks by RSF forces and allied Arab militia.
The war erupted last April over disputes about the powers of the army and the RSF under an internationally-backed plan for a political transition toward civilian rule and free elections.

Israel’s Netanyahu presents first official post-Gaza war plan

Updated 23 February 2024

Israel’s Netanyahu presents first official post-Gaza war plan

  • Netanayhu rejects the “unilateral recognition” of a Palestinian state
  • Replace Hamas rule in Gaza while maintaining public order

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has presented a “day after” plan for Gaza, his first official proposal for when the war in the Hamas-run Palestinian territory ends.
According to the document, presented to members of Israel’s security cabinet on Thursday and seen by Reuters on Friday, Israel would maintain security control over all land west of Jordan, including the occupied West Bank and Gaza — territories where the Palestinians want to create an independent state.
In the long-term goals listed, Netanayhu rejects the “unilateral recognition” of a Palestinian state. He says a settlement with the Palestinians will only be achieved through direct negotiations between the two sides — but it did not name who the Palestinian party would be.
In Gaza, Netanyahu outlines demilitarization and deradicalization as goals to be achieved in the medium term. He does not elaborate on when that intermediary stage would begin or how long it would last. But he conditions the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip, much of which has been laid to waste by Israel’s offensive, on its complete demilitarization.
Netanyahu proposes Israel have a presence on the Gaza-Egypt border in the south of the enclave and cooperates with Egypt and the United States in that area to prevent smuggling attempts, including at the Rafah crossing.
To replace Hamas rule in Gaza while maintaining public order, Netanyahu suggests working with local representatives “who are not affiliated with terrorist countries or groups and are not financially supported by them.”
He calls for shutting down the UN Palestinian refugees agency UNRWA and replacing it with other international aid groups.
“The prime minister’s document of principles reflects broad public consensus over the goals of the war and for replacing Hamas rule in Gaza with a civilian alternative,” a statement by the Prime Minister’s office said.
The document was distributed to security cabinet members to start a discussion on the issue.
The war was triggered by a Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which 1,200 people were killed and 253 taken hostage, according to Israeli counts.
Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel has responded with an air and ground assault on blockaded Gaza that has killed more than 29,400 people, according to Palestinian health authorities. The offensive has displaced most of the territory’s population and caused widespread hunger and disease.
The spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, told Reuters that Netanyahu’s proposal was doomed to fail, as were any Israeli plans to change the geographic and demographic realities in Gaza.
“If the world is genuinely interested in having security and stability in the region, it must end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and recognize an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital,” he said.
The war in Gaza has revived international calls — including Israel’s main backer the United States — for the so-called two-state solution as the ultimate goal for resolving the decades long Israel-Palestinian conflict. However, a number of senior Israeli politicians oppose this.
The two-state solution has long been a core Western policy in the region but little progress has been made on achieving Palestinian statehood since the signing of the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s.