UN urges end to ‘illogical escalation’ between Israel, Palestine

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Palestinians carry the body of Abdullah Sami Qalalweh during his funeral at his village of al-Judaydeh south of Jenin in the occupied West Bank, on Feb. 4, 2023. Israeli forces shot dead the 26-year-old at a military outpost. (AFP)
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Palestinians inspect a damaged house following an Israeli morning raid at the Aqabat Jabr refugee camp in Jericho city in the occupied West Bank, on February 4, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 05 February 2023

UN urges end to ‘illogical escalation’ between Israel, Palestine

  • Saturday’s violent storming of West Bank camp reflects ‘extremist mentality’ of Israeli govt, sources say

RAMALLAH: The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has urged an end to the “illogical escalation” between Israel and Palestine.

Volker Turk warned that recent measures taken by Israel would “lead to more violence and bloodshed.”

In a statement distributed in Geneva, Turk said: “I am afraid that the recent measures taken by the government of Israel only serve to fuel more violations and abuses, especially the decision to facilitate obtaining permits to carry weapons.”

He warned that the matter “accompanied by hateful rhetoric, will only lead to more violence and bloodshed.”

Israel denounced Turk’s statement, accusing him, in a statement issued by its ambassador to the UN in Geneva, of bias and of “only condemning the state of Israel.”

The high commissioner added: “Instead of doubling down on the failed methods of violence and coercion that have single-handedly failed in the past, I urge all concerned to break out of the illogical logic of escalation that only ended with dead bodies, loss of life and sheer despair.

“Collective punishment measures, including forced evictions and house demolitions, are expressly prohibited under international humanitarian law and are incompatible with provisions of international human rights law.”

The high commissioner called for urgent measures to de-escalate tensions, including ensuring that international standards were maintained in investigating deaths and serious injuries.

Turk said: “Impunity has spread, which signals that abuses are permissible.”

His warning came as Mustafa Al-Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative Party, criticized the bias of the US in failing to pressure the Israeli government into ending attacks on Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

He made the remarks to Arab News after Palestinian medical sources said that at least 13 Palestinians were injured during clashes with the Israeli military in the West Bank on Saturday.

Israeli troops stormed the Aqbat Jabr refugee camp south of Jericho on Saturday morning.

The action led to clashes, resulting in the injury of three citizens by live rounds and other rubber-coated metal bullets.

Israeli forces had demolished part of the walls of a besieged house in the camp and used loudspeakers to request the surrender of those inside.

Palestinian medical sources said that three of the injured in the camp clashes were transferred to Ramallah hospitals in critical condition.

According to media sources and residents in the camp, three family members were arrested, including a father and son. The Israeli army also demolished a house in the camp.

Israeli sources said that troops ended the military activity in Aqabat Jabr camp and left four hours after the raid began. A search for two people who allegedly carried out an armed attack at Almog junction a week earlier did not result in arrests.

Israeli armed forces claimed that troops had raided Aqabat Jabr refugee camp and questioned several people suspected of involvement in the attack.

An army statement said that clashes took place with Palestinian gunmen during the military operation, and that there were no casualties on the Israeli side.

It added that 18 people were interrogated in the field, and six were transferred to Shin Bet for investigation.

Al-Barghouti told Arab News that the violent storming of the camp reflected the “extremist mentality” of the Israeli government, which has imposed a policy of collective punishment on Palestinians.

He described the military action — which resulted in the wounding of 13 Palestinians — as unjustified.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health said that the Israeli military impeded the entry of medical and health personnel into Jericho.

Israeli armed forces have limited the exit of Palestinians in Jericho city’s eastern side during the last seven days.

It deployed tightened checkpoints at all main road entrances into the area.

Israeli authorities closed all secondary entries with earthen mounds, searching for two gunmen who opened fire toward on a restaurant at Almog on Jan. 28. No injuries were reported from the incident. Several Palestinians were arrested and later released after questioning.

Authorities adopted a “collective punishment policy” on the city by obstructing movement, searching cars and checking identities, sources said.

Citizens waited in vehicles for several hours in front of checkpoints at all entrances to the city.

The army’s actions disrupted daily life for the city’s 30,000 residents.

Dozens of citizens and workers endured waits of up to four hours at Israeli military checkpoints, while others were prevented from leaving the city entirely.

Jericho houses a terminal that serves as the only exit point for 3 million Palestinians to travel from the West Bank to countries around the world.

The closure of the city over the past week has significantly impeded the movement of citizens traveling and returning from abroad.

A doctor in the emergency department of a major Palestinian hospital in Ramallah told Arab News that the Israeli army was “deliberately shooting at the upper limbs” of targets, increasing the chances of fatal injury and death.

An ambulance officer from Jericho told Arab News that the three people left in critical condition from the camp raid were moved to Ramallah hospitals due to a lack of medical equipment in nearby hospitals.

They were transported more than 40 km, passing through several Israeli military checkpoints.

Palestinian factions have condemned the storming of Aqabat Jabr as a crime, calling for a confrontation with Israel.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said: “The occupation’s aggression against the Palestinian camps in the occupied West Bank, in addition to the escalation of daily arrest campaigns, will not weaken the continuous resistance until the occupation is defeated and our national goals are achieved.

“The escalation of resistance operations in all forms and various means categorically confirms that a new phase is taking shape in the West Bank and will pursue settlers and turn their colonies into prisons for settlers.”

Tariq Ezz El-Din, media spokesman for the Islamic Jihad Movement, said that the “ very dangerous” Israeli escalation needed to be met by “resistance activities.”

The Palestine Center for Prisoners Studies warned that Israeli authorities had stepped up arrest campaigns against Palestinians since the beginning of the year.

The center recorded 540 arrest cases, including 92 children and 10 women, in January.

It also referred to the Israeli army’s escalation of raids on towns and cities in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The center said that Jerusalem saw the largest share of arrests, with 270.

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Israeli drone falls in Syria during routine activity, Israeli military says

Updated 56 min 6 sec ago

Israeli drone falls in Syria during routine activity, Israeli military says

  • A military statement said there had been no breach of information

JERUSALEM: An Israeli drone fell in Syria on Wednesday during routine activity, the Israeli military said.
A military statement said there had been no breach of information and the incident was under investigation. It did not provide further details.

‘Starving’ retired army personnel protest against Lebanon’s ‘corrupt’ political elite

Updated 22 March 2023

‘Starving’ retired army personnel protest against Lebanon’s ‘corrupt’ political elite

  • ‘Retired soldiers are now paid peanuts amid the sharp increase in the dollar exchange rate and the dollarization of food prices’
  • ‘We need international protection to save us from corrupt politicians. We are no longer able to secure our food’

BEIRUT: Retired military personnel took to the streets of downtown Beirut on Wednesday to protest against the increasing financial hardships they said they are facing as a result of Lebanon’s economic crisis and rampant corruption.

Their angry demonstration followed the latest sharp decline in the value of the Lebanese pound on Tuesday, which prompted calls on social media for civil disobedience and public protests. Many of the protesters carried Lebanese flags and placards denouncing the government and its financial policies.

“Where is the conscience of the ruling powers?” said one of the demonstrators Arab News spoke to.

“Don’t they feel guilty about the retired members of the military who have served their country all their lives, given that they are currently starving and not able to access medical care services? Hospitals are holding their bodies in morgue freezers because their families cannot afford the hospital bills.”

Another retired military man told Arab News: “Retired soldiers are now paid peanuts amid the sharp increase in the dollar exchange rate and the dollarization of food prices.

“We need international protection to save us from corrupt politicians. We are no longer able to secure our food. We do not follow any political party or militia. We only belong to our homeland. They are criminals, endangering their country. Let it be known that the people will have no mercy on the tyrants.”

The drastic collapse of the exchange rate of the Lebanese pound against the dollar means that the value of monthly salaries paid to retired military personnel, and public-sector workers, has fallen to between $20 and $60.

“We came to discover whether there is still any state and to claim our salaries and rights to medical care with dignity,” retired Brig. Gen. Chamel Roukoz told Arab News: “The state has a duty toward us. Taking to the streets was our only solution.”

The protesters refused to meet any representatives of the Forces of Change, new members of parliament who were elected last year with the promise of representing the popular mood of opposition to the political status quo, because “they did nothing to benefit the people.” They said that MP Paula Yacoubian and the activist Wassef Al-Harakeh had been expelled from the demonstration.

The protesters breached barbed wire fences surrounding the Grand Serail, the headquarters of caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, and declared their intent to break in. In response, security and riot control officers used tear gas to disperse the crowd. The majority of the protesters were elderly and a number were treated by the Red Cross for suffocation.

“Wouldn’t it be better if they had given hungry soldiers money instead of spending it on bombs?” said one injured demonstrator.

Later, the protesters met Mikati and warned of “an unprecedented escalation if promises to fulfill the demands are not met, notably paying the public sector and retirees’ salaries based on the Sayrafa platform’s exchange rate, which is 25,000 pounds against the dollar, instead of the current rate of 90,000 pounds.”

In a separate incident, in the Jnah neighborhood in the southern suburbs of Beirut, fishermen blocked a road in protest against their deteriorating financial situation.

Elsewhere, members of an association that represents public administration employees protested in front of the Finance Ministry, demanding that the government “give public sector employees their rights by revising their salaries and transportation allowance, and securing their healthcare and education grants.”

Similar protests took place in Sidon, Tyre and Nabatieh.

An International Monetary Fund delegation, headed by Ernesto Rigo Ramirez, on Wednesday met the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon, Walid bin Abdullah Bukhari. Embassy sources said that they discussed “the (overall) developments and conditions needed for Lebanon to recover from the political and economic crisis, in addition to issues of common concern.”

Meanwhile, in an address to the nation at the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Deryan warned of “the emerging chaos whose price will be paid by citizens.” It is necessary to “resort to the constitution immediately, elect a president and stop wasting time,” he said.

“We cannot wait any longer; people have started to lose the basic necessities of life, and the political class and citizens live in two different worlds,” he added.

Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel will not revive settlements evacuated in 2005

Updated 22 March 2023

Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel will not revive settlements evacuated in 2005

  • Lawmakers earlier voted to annul part of a law banning Israelis from living in areas of the occupied West Bank the government evacuated in 2005

JERUSALEM: Israel has “no intention” of reviving West Bank settlements evacuated nearly two decades ago, the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday, after a parliamentary vote sparked US ire.
Lawmakers voted Tuesday to annul part of a law banning Israelis from living in areas of the occupied West Bank the government evacuated in 2005.
That year Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip and removed Jewish settlers from the coastal territory, as well as from four settlements in the northern West Bank.
Netanyahu’s office said the parliamentary vote scraps “a discriminatory and humiliating law, that prohibited Jews from living in areas in northern Samaria, which is part of our historic homeland,” using the biblical name for the northern West Bank.
“Having said that, the government has no intention of establishing new communities in these areas,” the statement added.
Netanyahu returned to power in December and vowed to expand settlements across the West Bank, which are deemed illegal under international law.
His assertion that the government will not formally allow settlers to return to the four sites evacuated in 2005 comes after Washington said it was “extremely troubled” by the parliamentary vote.
“The legislative changes announced today are particularly provocative,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters Tuesday.
Patel said the move was in “clear contradiction” of promises made by prime minister Ariel Sharon to US president George W. Bush, as well as assurances given just two days ago by the Netanyahu administration.
The decision by lawmakers was heralded by Israel’s settler movement which has made one of the sites — Homesh — a symbol of their cause.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, himself a far-right settler, tweeted that it marked a step toward regularizing the Israeli presence at Homesh.
A small group of activists returned to the site in 2009 and set up a Jewish seminary, which was cleared repeatedly by Israeli troops before the military eventually allowed them to stay.


Building collapse in Qatar’s capital kills 1, search ongoing

Updated 58 min 55 sec ago

Building collapse in Qatar’s capital kills 1, search ongoing

DOHA: A building collapsed Wednesday in Qatar’s capital, killing at least one person as searchers clawed through the rubble to check for survivors, authorities said.
Qatar’s Interior Ministry described the building as a four-story structure in Doha’s Bin Durham neighborhood. It said rescuers found seven survivors, while the one person killed had been inside the building at the time of the collapse.
Authorities offered no immediate explanation for the building’s collapse. Online video showed car alarms sounding after the collapse, with one part of the building falling into another nearby.
Civil defense and police surrounded the site after the 8 a.m. collapse, with multiple ambulances and an excavator at the scene. Residents were asked to evacuate for their safety.
Qatar hosted the FIFA World Cup last year.


Pro-Kurdish party gives tacit support to Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rival in Turkey polls

Updated 22 March 2023

Pro-Kurdish party gives tacit support to Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rival in Turkey polls

  • Peoples’ Democratic Party decision reduces the possibility of a damaging split of the anti-Erdogan vote
  • Boosts the chances of the opposition alliance’s joint candidate, Kemal Kilicdaroglu

ISTANBUL: Turkiye’s main pro-Kurdish party said Wednesday it would not field a presidential candidate in May elections, giving tacit support to Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rival in the crucial vote.
The decision by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) reduces the possibility of a damaging split of the anti-Erdogan vote, boosting the chances of the opposition alliance’s joint candidate, Kemal Kilicdaroglu.
Winning more than 10 percent of the vote in the past three national elections, the HDP was widely seen as a kingmaker in the tightly contested race.
“We will not field a candidate in the presidential elections,” Pervin Buldan, the party co-chairwoman, told reporters.
“We will fulfil our historic responsibility to end one-man rule in the coming elections,” she said, condemning Erdogan’s consolidation of power over his two decades as prime minister and president.
The HDP’s decision strips Erdogan of a key voting bloc in what is widely seen as Turkiye’s most important election of its post-Ottoman history.
Erdogan enjoyed some support from Kurdish voters earlier in his rule.
His government once worked with HDP politicians in an effort to put an end to a decades-long fight by Kurdish insurgents for an independent state that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
But he now accuses the HDP — parliament’s third largest party — of being the political wing of the PKK militants.
The leftist party denies the charges and says it is being singled out for its fierce criticism of the government’s social and economic policies.
Erdogan and his far-right allies in parliament are now trying to dissolve the HDP over its alleged terror ties.
Turkiye’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday rejected the HDP’s request to delay the outcome of the case until after the May 14 election.
The HDP was excluded from a six-party opposition alliance that has rallied around Kilicdaroglu’s candidacy.
The anti-Erdogan alliance includes staunchly nationalist parties that refuse to work with the HDP.
Meeting with HDP leaders on Monday, Kilicdaroglu promised to remove restrictions on the Kurdish language and address other Kurdish concerns.