UN launches $1bn appeal for Turkiye quake victims

A man sits by rubble of collapsed building in the historic southern city of Antakya is pictured on February 12, 2023, after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the border region of Turkiye and Syria earlier in the week. (AFP)
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Updated 18 February 2023
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UN launches $1bn appeal for Turkiye quake victims

  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the funds would provide humanitarian relief for three months to 5.2 million people
  • The money would "allow aid organizations to rapidly scale up vital support,"

UNITED NATIONS, United States: The United Nations launched an appeal for $1 billion Thursday to help Turkiye’s victims of the catastrophic earthquake that killed thousands of people and left millions more in desperate need of aid.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement that the funds would provide humanitarian relief for three months to 5.2 million people.
The money would “allow aid organizations to rapidly scale up vital support,” including in the areas of food security, protection, education, water and shelter, he added.
“The needs are enormous, people are suffering and there’s no time to lose,” Guterres implored.
“I urge the international community to step up and fully fund this critical effort in response to one of the biggest natural disasters of our times.”
The 7.8-magnitude tremor on February 6 has killed more than 35,000 people in southeast Turkiye, with several thousand more losing their lives across the border in Syria.
More than nine million people in Turkiye have been directly impacted by the disaster, according to Ankara.
Many of them are Syrian refugees. According to UN figures, 1.74 million Syrians are living under temporary refugee protection status in the 11 provinces in Turkiye impacted by the quake.
Turkiye is “home to the largest number of refugees in the world and has shown enormous generosity to its Syrian neighbors for years,” Guterres said in his statement.
“Now is the time for the world to support the people of Turkiye — just as they have stood in solidarity with others seeking assistance.”
Turkiye’s people have experienced “unspeakable heartache,” the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said in a separate statement announcing the flash appeal.
“We must stand with them in their darkest hour and ensure they receive the support they need,” added Griffiths, who heads the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
OCHA said in its statement that hundreds of thousands of people, including small children and elderly people, are suffering in freezing temperatures without access to shelter, food, water, heaters and medical care.
It added that some 47,000 buildings have been destroyed or damaged across Turkiye, with thousands of people having sought refuge in temporary shelters.
The United Nations is delivering hot meals, food, tents, warm winter clothing, blankets, mattresses, kitchen sets and medical supplies to affected areas, OCHA said.
On Tuesday, the global body launched a $397 million appeal to help quake victims in Syria.
The UN earlier provided $50 million toward relief efforts through its central emergency response fund.
For its part, global steel manufacturing giant ArcelorMittal, citing the “heart-breaking” devastation in Turkiye and Syria, announced Thursday it has donated $5 million to help quake victims via two humanitarian organizations: Disasters Emergency Committee and Doctors Without Borders.


Mahsa Amini’s family blocked from leaving Iran for EU rights prize

Updated 57 min 33 sec ago
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Mahsa Amini’s family blocked from leaving Iran for EU rights prize

  • Amini died aged 22 while being held by Iran’s religious police for allegedly breaching the Islamic republic’s strict dress code

Paris: The family of Mahsa Amini, the Iranian Kurdish woman who died in custody, have been banned from traveling to France to collect a top rights prize awarded posthumously, their lawyer said Saturday.
Amini died aged 22 on September 16, 2022, while being held by Iran’s religious police for allegedly breaching the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women.
Her family and supporters say she was killed. Iranian authorities claim she died in custody from a previously undisclosed medical condition.
In October, the European Union awarded its top rights honor, the Sakharov Prize, to her and the global movement her death triggered.
On Saturday her family’s lawyer in France, Chirinne Ardakani, told AFP that Amini’s parents and brother had been “prohibited from boarding the flight that was to take them to France for the presentation of the Sakharov Prize.”
She said the family had been banned from leaving Iran despite having a valid visa, and their passports had been confiscated.
Ardakani said Iranian authorities “have never been so mobilized to prevent the families of the victims from speaking to the international community.”
Mahsa Amini’s death triggered mass protests in Iran.
It also generated a global movement known as “Woman, Life, Freedom,” calling for the end of Iran’s imposition of a headscarf on all women and an end to the Muslim cleric-led government in Tehran.
Iranian security forces have cracked down on the protests domestically, killing hundreds, and have executed dozens for allegedly participating in what officials have called “riots.”
The “Woman, Life, Freedom” campaign continues in cities around the world, with frequent demonstrations in which Amini’s photo is held aloft.
The Sakharov Prize, which comes with a 50,000-euro ($53,000) endowment, was to be handed over in a European Parliament ceremony on December 13.


Arab-Islamic Ministerial Committee objects to US veto during Blinken meeting

Updated 09 December 2023
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Arab-Islamic Ministerial Committee objects to US veto during Blinken meeting

  • Arab, Islamic foreign ministers renewed unified rejection of Israeli aggression against Palestinians in Gaza during meeting with US counterpart Anthony Blinken

RIYADH: Foreign ministers of Arab and Islamic nations voiced their objection to the US veto that blocked international calls for the UN Security Council to demand ceasefire in Gaza, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

During a meeting with the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, the Arab-Islamic Ministerial Committee reiterated calls for the US to assume its responsibilities and take the necessary measures to push Israel towards an immediate ceasefire.

The foreign ministers also renewed their unified rejection of the Israeli aggression against the Palestinians in Gaza, reiterating the necessity to end the hostilities, protect civilians and lift the siege hindering the access of humanitarian aid to the war-stricken enclave.

They voiced their rejection against attempts to displace Palestinians from Gaza, emphasizing on “creating a real political climate that leads to a two-state solution,” according to SPA statement.

Several minsters participated in the meeting, including Qatari Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Jordan’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Ayman Al-Safadi, Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry, Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Riyad Al-Maliki, and Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Hakan Fidan.


Israel strikes Gaza after failed UN ceasefire bid

Updated 09 December 2023
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Israel strikes Gaza after failed UN ceasefire bid

  • Israeli strike on the southern city of Khan Yunis killed six people, while five others died in a separate attack in Rafah
  • Hamas and the Palestinian Authority swiftly condemned the US veto as health ministry put the latest death toll in Gaza at 17,487 people

GAZA: Israel pressed its offensive against Hamas militants in Gaza on Saturday after the United States blocked an extraordinary UN bid to call for a ceasefire in the two-month war.
Hamas and the Palestinian Authority swiftly condemned the US veto as the Hamas-run health ministry put the latest death toll in Gaza at 17,487 people, mostly women and children.
An Israeli strike on the southern city of Khan Yunis killed six people, while five others died in a separate attack in Rafah, the ministry said Saturday.
Israel has vowed to eradicate Hamas over its unprecedented attack on October 7 when militants broke through Gaza’s militarised border to kill around 1,200 people and seize hostages, 138 of whom remain captive, according to Israeli figures.
Vast areas of Gaza have been reduced to rubble and the UN says about 80 percent of the population has been displaced, with dire shortages of food, fuel, water and medicine reported.
“It’s so cold, and the tent is so small. All I have are the clothes I wear, I still don’t know what the next step will be,” said Mahmud Abu Rayan, displaced from Beit Lahia in the north.
A UN Security Council resolution that would have called for an immediate cease-fire was vetoed by the United States on Friday.
US envoy Robert Wood said the resolution was “divorced from reality” and “would have not moved the needle forward on the ground.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said the cease-fire “would prevent the collapse of the Hamas terrorist organization, which is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, and would enable it to continue ruling the Gaza Strip.”
Hamas slammed on Saturday the US rejection of the cease-fire bid as “a direct participation of the occupation in killing our people and committing more massacres and ethnic cleansing.”
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said it was “a disgrace and another blank cheque given to the occupying state to massacre, destroy and displace.”
The veto was swiftly condemned by humanitarian groups, with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) saying the Security Council was “complicit in the ongoing slaughter.”
Israel’s military said Friday it had struck 450 targets in Gaza over 24 hours, showing footage of strikes from naval vessels in the Mediterranean.
The Hamas health ministry reported 40 dead near Gaza City in the north, and dozens more in Jabalia and the main southern city of Khan Yunis.


Humanitarian Catastrophe
Following two months of conflict and bombardment, UN chief Antonio Guterres said Friday “the people of Gaza are looking into the abyss.”
“People are desperate, fearful and angry,” he said.
“All this takes place amid a spiralling humanitarian nightmare.”
Many of the 1.9 million Gazans who have been displaced by the war have headed south, turning Rafah near the Egyptian border into a vast camp.
With the death toll of medical workers in the conflict mounting, more than a dozen World Health Organization member states submitted a draft resolution on Friday that urged Israel to respect its obligations under international law to protect humanitarians in Gaza.
They called for Israel to “respect and protect” medical and humanitarian workers exclusively involved in carrying out medical duties, as well as hospitals and other medical facilities.
Only 14 of the 36 hospitals in the Gaza Strip were functioning in any capacity, according to United Nations’ humanitarian agency OCHA.
With the civilian toll mounting, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters Friday that Washington believes Israel needs to do more to protect civilians in the conflict.
“We certainly all recognize more can be done to... reduce civilian casualties. And we’re going to keep working with our Israeli counterparts to that end,” he said.
The death toll also rose in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces shot dead six Palestinians on Friday, the territory’s health ministry said.
Israel said Friday it has lost 91 soldiers in Gaza.
It said two others were wounded in a failed bid to rescue hostages overnight, and that “numerous terrorists” were killed in the operation.
Hamas claimed a hostage was killed in the operation, and released a video purporting to show the body, which could not be independently verified.
Hamas rocket parts, launchers and other weapons as well as a one-kilometer tunnel were found at Al-Azhar University in Gaza City, the army said, as it warned residents to move west.


Daesh attack kills seven pro-regime fighters in Syria

Updated 09 December 2023
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Daesh attack kills seven pro-regime fighters in Syria

  • Daesh attacks have killed at least 385 members of pro-regime forces and 165 civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

BEIRUT: Seven members of pro-regime forces were killed in Syria on Friday in an attack by the Daesh group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The attackers were on motorbikes when they opened fire on a military post, “killing at least seven pro-regime fighters,” in the vicinity of Boukamal on the border with Iraq, the NGO’s director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
This year, Daesh attacks have killed at least 385 members of pro-regime forces and 165 civilians, according to the Observatory, which has a vast network of sources in Syria.
Rahman said those killed on Friday included both Syrians and “foreigners.”
After rising to power in 2014 in parts of Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State saw its self-proclaimed “caliphate” waver after successive offensives against it in both countries, which were launched with the support of an international anti-jihadist coalition.
The defeat of IS in Syria was declared in 2019, but the coalition remained in the country to fight against jihadist cells that continue to operate there.
The conflict in Syria, sparked in 2011 by the iron-fisted repression of pro-democracy demonstrations, has left more than half a million dead.
More than twelve years of bloody conflict have divided the country into zones of influence.
President Bashar Assad’s regime has regained control of a large part of the country, with the support of its Russian and Iranian allies.
 

 

 


Palestinian president says Gaza war must end, conference needed to reach settlement

Updated 09 December 2023
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Palestinian president says Gaza war must end, conference needed to reach settlement

RAMALLAH: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday called for an immediate end to the war in Gaza and an international peace conference to work out a lasting political solution leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state.
In an interview with Reuters at his office in Ramallah, Abbas, 87, said the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in general had reached an alarming stage that requires an international conference and guarantees by world powers.
Besides Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza, he said Israeli forces have intensified their attacks everywhere in the occupied West Bank over the past year with settlers escalating violence against Palestinian towns.
He reiterated his longstanding position in favor of negotiation rather than armed resistance to end the longstanding occupation.
“I am with peaceful resistance. I am for negotiations based on an international peace conference and under international auspices that would lead to a solution that will be protected by world powers to establish a sovereign Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem,” he said.
Abbas was speaking as Israel increased its strikes on Gaza. In two months of warfare, it has killed more than 17,000 people, wounded 46,000 and forced the displacement of around 1.9 million people, over half of them now sheltering in areas in central Gaza or close to the Egyptian border.
A senior US official said the idea of an international conference had been discussed among different partners but the proposal was still at a very preliminary stage.
“It’s one of many options on the table that we and others would consider with an open mind, but no decision has been made about that,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
Israel launched its campaign to annihilate the Hamas movement that rules Gaza after Hamas fighters went on a rampage through Israeli towns on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and seizing 240 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.
Abbas said that based on a binding international agreement, he would revive the weakened Palestinian Authority, implement long-awaited reforms and hold presidential and parliamentary elections, which were suspended after Hamas won in 2006 and later pushed the PA out of Gaza.
He said the PA had abided by all the peace deals signed with Israel since the 1993 Oslo Accord and the understandings that followed over the years but that Israel had reneged on its pledges to end the occupation.

DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS
Asked whether he would risk holding elections given the possibility that Hamas could win as it did in 2006, he said: “Whoever wins wins, these will be democratic elections.”
Abbas said he had planned to hold elections in April 2021 but the European Union envoy told him before the due date that Israel was objecting to voting in East Jerusalem so he was forced to call it off.
He insisted that there would not be elections without East Jerusalem, saying the PA held three rounds of elections in the past that included East Jerusalem before Israel imposed the ban.
Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war. It later annexed it, declaring the whole of the city as its capital, a move not recognized internationally. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
Abbas did not give a concrete vision of a post-war plan discussed with US officials under which the PA would take over control of the strip, home for 2.3 million people. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Israel would not accept rule over Gaza by the Palestinian Authority as it stands.
“The United States tells us that it supports a two-state solution, that Israel is not allowed to occupy Gaza, to keep security control of Gaza or to expropriate land from Gaza,” he said in reference to a plan floated by Israel to establish a security zone in Gaza after the war.
“America doesn’t force Israel to implement what it says.”
He said the PA was still present in Gaza as an institution and still pays monthly salaries and expenses estimated at $140 million for employees, pensioners and for needy families. The PA still has three ministers present in Gaza, he added.
“We need rehabilitation, we need big support to return to Gaza,” Abbas said.
“Gaza today is not the Gaza that you know. Gaza was destroyed, its hospitals, its schools, its infrastructure, its buildings, its roads and mosques were destroyed. There is nothing left. When we return we need resources, Gaza needs reconstruction.”
“The United States which fully supports Israel bears the responsibility of what is happening in the enclave,” Abbas said.
“It is the only power that is capable of ordering Israel to stop the war and fulfil its obligations, but unfortunately it doesn’t. America is an accomplice of Israel.”