Israel launches arrest campaign in Palestinian cities after Huwara attack

Shops in Huwara were closed over fear of attacks by settlers, and there was disruption after Israeli security personnel were deployed on the streets. (Reuters)
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Updated 20 March 2023

Israel launches arrest campaign in Palestinian cities after Huwara attack

  • Fears that violence between Israeli settlers and Palestinians will continue after end of Sharm El-Sheikh meeting

RAMALLAH: Hours after the end of the Sharm El-Sheikh meeting between Israeli and Palestinian officials, overseen by Egypt and attended by Jordan and the US, the Israel Defense Forces arrested a number of Palestinians after two Israeli men were wounded in an attack in the northern West Bank town of Huwara on Sunday. 

Shops in Huwara were closed over fear of revenge attacks by Israeli settlers, and there was disruption after IDF personnel were deployed on the streets.

At dawn on Monday, the IDF stormed several towns and villages in the Jenin governorate, and intensified their measures around the city of Nablus in the northern West Bank. 

Israeli police arrested several Palestinian activists in East Jerusalem — a few days before the start of Ramadan.

Muin Al-Dumaidi, mayor of Huwara, told Arab News that Israeli troops were deployed heavily inside the town and on the rooftops of houses, preventing shop owners from opening their shops. 

“The closure of the town will destroy Huwara’s economy and displace shopkeepers along the main street ahead of Ramadan, as trade forms the backbone of the town’s residents,” Al-Dumaidi said.

He said the closure aims to facilitate the movement of Israeli settlers who pass through the town so that they are not hindered by traffic congestion.

“Shop owners keep calling me, asking when we will be allowed to reopen them, and I have no answer,” Al-Dumaidi said.  

On Feb. 26, Israeli settlers burned more than 40 houses and over 50 vehicles in the town. 

Elisha Yared, spokesman for Israeli politician Limor Son Har Melech, called for the Palestinian town of Huwara to be wiped out. 

“Wipeout Huwara now, without apology and hesitation ... As long as we don’t understand this, the killing (of Israelis) will continue in the streets,” Yared wrote on Twitter in response to the Huwara attack.

Meanwhile, settlers assaulted Palestinians in different parts of the West Bank, such as Jericho, Ramallah, and Nablus, smashing the windows of their vehicles and assaulting them with no intervention from the IDF or police. 

They ransacked several shops in the Old City of Hebron, and slashed the tires of vehicles and wrote racist slogans on the walls of houses in Salfit. Earlier in the day, settlers smashed the windows of several cars at the entrance to Beitin village, east of Ramallah.

The Israeli Minister of National Security Itamar Ben- Gvir signed a decision banning the official Voice of Palestine radio station in Jerusalem on Monday, removing its broadcast towers. Israeli sources said that Ben Gvir’s decision came within the framework of combating what he described as “Palestinian incitement.”

Meanwhile, Palestinians reacted angrily to statements by the Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich in which he denied the existence of the Palestinian people. 

Rejecting these remarks, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said: “We are the ones who gave Palestine its name and the land its value and status … We have learned from history that colonialism is coming to an end and that the will and belonging of our people are not shaken by the statements of the falsifiers of history and their false claims.” 

Separately, the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, will vote on a bill to nullify the “disengagement” law in the occupied West Bank, which allows the return to settlements that Israel evacuated in 2005 in the northern West Bank. 

The bill allows for a return to settlements in the northern occupied West Bank after lifting the ban imposed by the “disengagement” law drafted by the party of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. 

Israeli media reported that the Legislative Committee in the Knesset amended the proposal’s wording to ensure that it does not apply to the settlements evacuated in the Gaza Strip in 2005. 

Meanwhile, Palestinians in the West Bank said they did not expect any change in their lives after the Sharm El-Sheikh summit on Sunday, believing that Israel will not fulfil any of the promises or agreements that have been agreed upon. 

Political analyst Riyad Qadriya told Arab News that he ruled out the implementation of any of the Sharm El-Sheikh security understandings on Sunday, either by Israel or the Palestinian Authority.

“It will be impossible to implement the security provisions of the Sharm El-Sheikh understandings without handing over all of Area A to Palestinian security,” Qadriya said.

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Lebanon judge questions central bank chief over Munich arrest warrant

Updated 31 May 2023

Lebanon judge questions central bank chief over Munich arrest warrant

  • Salameh has been the subject of a series of judicial probes both at home and abroad
  • Lebanese judge Imad Qabalan questioned Salameh over accusations of "money laundering, fraud, embezzlement and illicit enrichment"

BEIRUT: A Lebanese judge questioned central bank chief Riad Salameh on Wednesday after Beirut received a second Interpol Red Notice targeting him, this time following an arrest warrant from Munich, a judicial official said.
Salameh has been the subject of a series of judicial probes both at home and abroad into the fortune he has amassed during some three decades in the job.
France earlier this month issued an arrest warrant for Salameh after he failed to appear for questioning in Paris.
On Wednesday, Lebanese judge Imad Qabalan questioned Salameh over accusations of “money laundering, fraud, embezzlement and illicit enrichment,” the judicial official said, requesting anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Two days earlier, Lebanon received an Interpol Red Notice pursuant to the arrest warrant issued in absentia by Munich’s public prosecutor, according to the judicial official.
Last week Qabalan had questioned Salameh, banned him from traveling, confiscated his French and Lebanese passports and released him pending investigation, after receiving the first Interpol Red Notice, issued following the French arrest warrant.
An Interpol Red Notice is not an international arrest warrant but asks authorities worldwide to provisionally detain people pending possible extradition or other legal actions.
Lebanon does not extradite its nationals but Salameh could go on trial in Lebanon if local judicial authorities decide the accusations against him are founded, an official previously told AFP.
Qabalan on Wednesday again banned Salameh from travel and released him pending investigation, the judicial official said.
He also requested Salameh’s file from the judiciary in Munich and noted that “only the Lebanese judiciary has the authority to try him,” the official added.
In March 2022, France, Germany and Luxembourg seized assets worth 120 million euros ($130 million) in a move linked to a probe into Salameh’s wealth.
In February, Lebanon charged Salameh with embezzlement, money laundering and tax evasion as part of its own investigations.
The domestic probe was opened following a request for assistance from Switzerland’s public prosecutor looking into more than $300 million in fund movements by Salameh and his brother.
Salameh, who was questioned for more than an hour on Wednesday, again “denied all charges against him” and said wealth came from private sources, the official added.
Salameh continues to serve as central bank governor. His mandate ends in July.
Activists say the travel ban helps shield him from being brought to justice abroad — and from potentially bringing down others in the entrenched political class, which is widely blamed for endemic corruption in the crisis-hit country.
His brother Raja was due to appear for questioning in France on Wednesday, but his lawyer said he was unable to attend due to medical reasons and the judge postponed the session for two months, the official added.

Qatar prime minister, Taliban chief hold secret Afghan talks

Updated 31 May 2023

Qatar prime minister, Taliban chief hold secret Afghan talks

  • The meeting signals a new willingness by Afghanistan’s rulers to discuss ways to end their global isolation
  • Qatar has no formal ties with Afghanistan, its Kabul embassy is open and represents US interests there

WASHINGTON: The Qatari prime minister held secret talks with the supreme leader of the Taliban this month on resolving tension with the international community, a source briefed on the meeting said, signaling a new willingness by Afghanistan’s rulers to discuss ways to end their isolation.

The May 12 meeting in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar between Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani and Haibatullah Akhunzada is the first the reclusive Taliban chief is known to have held with a foreign leader.

US President Joe Biden’s administration was briefed on the talks and is “coordinating on all issues discussed” by the pair, including furthering dialogue with the Taliban, said the source.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said other issues Sheikh Mohammed raised with Haibatullah included the need to end a Taliban bans on girls’ education and women’s employment.

The meeting represents a diplomatic success for Qatar, which has criticized Taliban restrictions on women while using long-standing ties with the Islamist movement to push for deeper engagement with Kabul by the international community.

The United States has led demands for the Taliban to end the bans on girls’ schooling and women working, including for UN agencies and humanitarian groups, to restore their freedom of movement and bring Afghans from outside Taliban ranks into government.

The source’s comments suggested that Washington supported elevating what have been unproductive lower-level talks in the hope of a breakthrough that could end the world’s only bans of their kind and ease dire humanitarian and financial crises that have left tens of millions of Afghans hungry and jobless.

The White House declined to comment on the talks. The State Department and the Qatar embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for comment.

The Taliban did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


The restrictions on women’s schooling and work have stymied humanitarian aid and are key reasons why no country has recognized Taliban rule since they seized power in August 2021, after the Western-backed government collapsed as the last US-led international troops departed following two decades of war.

The treatment by the Taliban of women and girls could amount to a crime against humanity, according to a UN report presented in March at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The Taliban say they respect women’s rights in line with their interpretation of Islamic law and Afghan customs.

Haibatullah, a hard-line Islamist, has shown little willingness to compromise on his edicts.

His meeting with Sheikh Mohammed, however, suggests that he is open to exploring avenues for ending Afghanistan’s isolation and boosting relief programs as the country sinks into hunger and poverty.

“It was a very positive meeting,” said the source. Haibatullah was “very interested” in continuing a dialogue with the international community.

But eventual recognition by other countries of the Taliban administration, senior members of which remain under US and international sanctions, is far from assured given their treatment of women and poor human rights record.

Sheikh Mohammed raised with Haibatullah the need to lift the bans on women’s education and employment, including the bar on them working for UN agencies and other humanitarian groups, the source said.

The Taliban administration has been promising since January written guidelines allowing aid groups to operate with female staff.

The Taliban in March 2022 barred girls from high schools and extended the ban to universities in December.

They say they will reopen secondary schools to girls when “conditions” have been met, including devising an Islamic syllabus.


Sheikh Mohammed and Haibatullah also discussed efforts to remedy Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis, the source said.

The United Nations says nearly three-quarters of Afghanistan’s 40 million people need help and it has warned that funding is drying up.

Sheikh Mohammed, the source said, raised with Haibatullah the “continued efforts on the ground” by the Taliban on counterterrorism, an apparent reference to Kabul’s drive to crush a Daesh affiliate.

The main ideological foe of the Taliban is based mostly in eastern Afghanistan but has targeted minorities and embassies in Kabul.

The US and its allies say the Taliban harbor members of Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. The Afghan Taliban deny that.

Sheikh Mohammed, who also serves as Qatar’s foreign minister, met publicly in Kandahar with Mullah Hassan Akhund, the Taliban prime minister, on the same day he met the supreme leader. He was accompanied by Qatar’s intelligence chief.

Neither side, however, revealed the talks with Haibatullah.

He almost never leaves Kandahar but has been the paramount religious, political and military leader of the Taliban since 2016, guiding the movement to victory over the Western-backed Kabul government.

Qatar allowed the militants to open a political office in Doha in 2013 and facilitated their talks with Washington that led to the 2020 deal for a withdrawal of the US-led international force that they fought for 20 years.

While the tiny Gulf monarchy has no formal diplomatic ties with Afghanistan, its Kabul embassy is open and represents US interests there.

Qatar has long pressed the international community to agree a “roadmap” of steps for the Taliban to gain recognition, arguing that isolating Afghanistan could worsen regional security.

Sudan’s military says it has suspended its participation in talks with paramilitary rival

Army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan cheers with soldiers as he visits some of their positions in Khartoum. (AFP)
Updated 31 May 2023

Sudan’s military says it has suspended its participation in talks with paramilitary rival

  • So far, there have been seven declared cease-fires in the country, all of which have been violated to some extent
  • Responding to the military’s move, the RSF said it “unconditionally backs the Saudi-US initiative”

CAIRO: Sudan’s military suspended its participation in talks with a paramilitary force it’s been battling for weeks for control of the northeastern African country, a military spokesman said Wednesday.
Brig. Nabil Abdalla, a spokesman for the Sudanese armed forces, told The Associated Press that the move is a protest against the Rapid Support Forces’ “repeated violations” of the humanitarian cease-fire, including their continued occupation of hospitals and other civilian infrastructure in the capital, Khartoum.
Sudan descended into chaos after fighting erupted in mid-April between the military, led by Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, and the RSF, commanded by Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo. The fighting has killed at least 866 civilians and wounded thousands more, according to the Sudanese Doctors’ Syndicate, which tracks civilian casualties. The toll could be much higher, the medical group had previously said.
Abdalla, the spokesman, said the military wants to ensure that the terms of a US-Saudi-brokered truce “be fully implemented” before discussing further steps. He did not elaborate.
On May 21, both sides signed a cease-fire agreement allowing for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and the restoration of essential services destroyed in the clashes. They also agreed to stop the looting of residential properties and humanitarian aid, as well as the taking over of civilian infrastructure such as hospitals and power plants.
So far, there have been seven declared cease-fires in the country, all of which have been violated to some extent.
Responding to the military’s move, the RSF said it “unconditionally backs the Saudi-US initiative.”
On Tuesday, the military released footage that showed Burhan inspecting troops. The army chief warned that the military would resort to “full lethal force” if the RSF “doesn’t respond to the voice of reason.” The military’s aircrafts were also seen flying over the capital.
Residents, meanwhile, reported clashes late Tuesday in parts of Khartoum and its neighboring city of Omdurman.
Both sides traded blame for violating the cease-fire.
The military’s move came two days after the sides agreed to extend the shaky cease-fire for five more days.
In a joint statement Sunday, the US and Saudi Arabia called out both warring sides for specific breaches of a weeklong truce rather than issue another general appeal to respect agreements.
The statement said the military continued to carry out airstrikes, while the RSF was still occupying people’s homes and seizing properties. Fuel, money, aid supplies and vehicles belonging to a humanitarian convoy were stolen, with theft occurring both in areas controlled by the military and by the RSF, it added.
The fighting has caused widespread destruction in residential areas in Khartoum and its adjacent cities of Omdurman and Bahri. Residents reported storming and looting of their homes, mostly by the RSF. Many posted photos and videos of their looted homes on social media, condemning the pillaging.
The conflict has also turned Khartoum, and other urban areas into battlefields, forcing nearly 1.4 million people to flee their homes to safer areas inside Sudan or crossing into neighboring countries. Early on, foreign governments raced to evacuate their diplomats and nationals as thousands of foreign residents scrambled to get out of the African nation.

UN: Staggering 15.3 million Syrians, nearly 70% of population, need aid

Updated 31 May 2023

UN: Staggering 15.3 million Syrians, nearly 70% of population, need aid

  • 2.5 million people are at risk of losing food or cash assistance from July
  • The Syrian people “are more and more reliant on humanitarian assistance as basic services and critical infrastructure are on the brink of collapse"

UNITED NATIONS: For the first time in Syria’s 12-year war, people in every district are experiencing some degree of “humanitarian stress,” and a staggering 15.3 million — nearly 70 percent of the population — need humanitarian aid, the United Nations said Tuesday.
A UN appeal for $5.4 billion to help over 14 million people in Syria is less than 10 percent funded and the UN World Food Program has warned that without additional money, 2.5 million people are at risk of losing food or cash assistance from July.
The dire humanitarian situation, compounded by the February earthquake that devastated the rebel-held northwest, was spelled out to the Security Council by the UN humanitarian office’s operations director Edem Wosornu.
The Syrian people “are more and more reliant on humanitarian assistance as basic services and critical infrastructure are on the brink of collapse,” she said.
Wosornu urged generous pledges and the swift release of funds at a European Union hosted conference in Brussels on June 14-15. She said “Syrians need the support of the international community now more than at any time in the past 12 years.”
She said the need to maintain the delivery of humanitarian aid to the northwest is even more critical after the earthquake. She said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for a 12-month extension of the UN mandate, which expires in July, saying the assistance is “indispensable” and “a matter of life and death for millions of people” in the region.
Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, whose country is a close ally of Syria, said Moscow shares concerns about the deteriorating humanitarian situation. But he said cross-border aid delivery “has outlived its usefulness” and “we see no reason at all to extend it.”
Nebenzia expressed concern that while cross-border aid was flowing and funded, the appeal to help millions of others in acute need in Syria is only 9 percent funded. It’s “a very odd moral imperative,” if aid “only applies to the terrorists in Idlib and it does not apply to the country as a whole.”
US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the United States will seek a council resolution to extend aid deliveries through the three border crossings currently operating: Bab Al-Hawa, which was the single crossing Russia would allow to remain open in January, as well as Bab Al-Salam and Al Raée, which Syria’s President Bashar Assad agreed to open after the quake, which killed over 6,000 in Syria and has displaced over 330,000. Assad has agreed to keep the two additional crossings open through Aug. 13.
The US envoy accused Assad of “cynically” trying “to seize on the outpouring of international support following the earthquakes to reclaim its place on the world stage,” stressing that “merely sitting at the same table as other regional leaders does nothing to help the people of Syria.”
“If the Assad regime wants to help the Syrian people, it should act immediately and announce that it will keep the Bab Al-Salam and Al Raée crossings open through at least August 2024, or as long as it takes,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “And even if the Assad regime does the right thing, it is frankly no substitute for actions by this council, which has a responsibility to respond to the dire humanitarian needs of the Syrian people.”
Assad was welcomed back to the Arab League this month after a 12-year suspension. Geir Pedersen, the UN special envoy for Syria, told the Security Council that this meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia along with others in Moscow and Amman that included Syrian officials could create new momentum in long-stalled efforts to end the conflict.
He reiterated that new diplomatic activity “could act as a circuit breaker in the search for a political solution in Syria – if there is constructive Syria engagement, and indeed if key regional and international groups and players can work together.”

Iraq top court invalidates decisions of Kurdish parliament

Updated 30 May 2023

Iraq top court invalidates decisions of Kurdish parliament

  • Elections in Iraqi Kurdistan had been scheduled for late 2022
  • Disputes between its two main parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, forced the assembly to extend its mandate for another year

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s supreme court on Tuesday ruled as unconstitutional the extended mandate of autonomous Kurdistan’s parliament, rendering invalid votes taken by the chamber since last year.
It is the latest controversy between Iraq’s federal authorities and Kurdistan whose leaders had on Saturday denounced amendments in the federal budget affecting oil sales from the region in Iraq’s north.
Elections in Iraqi Kurdistan had been scheduled for late 2022, but disputes between its two main parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), forced the assembly to extend its mandate for another year.
Fresh elections were scheduled for November this year.
In his ruling Judge Jassem Mohammed Aboud, president of the top federal court in Baghdad, found unconstitutional the year-long extension of the chamber’s mandate.
As a result, decisions taken by the Kurdistan parliament since October 2022 “are constitutionally invalid,” Aboud said.
His ruling came after some Kurdistan opposition legislators who were upset with the mandate extension took their case to the court.
Last week, deputies in Kurdistan’s parliament came to blows after the KDP scheduled a late vote to activate the commission organizing the elections. PUK lawmakers wanted the vote postponed.
The KDP currently holds the largest bloc of 45 seats, trailed by the PUK with 21 in the 111-seat chamber.
Shivan Fazil, a researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said the court’s ruling “is unprecedented” because it also nullifies “the government that has been sworn in” before the regional parliament.