In milestone decision, UN creates institution for Syria’s missing and disappeared

Families and relatives of Syrian detainees and missing people demand information on their loved ones, in the town of Azaz in Aleppo province. (AFP)
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Updated 30 June 2023
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In milestone decision, UN creates institution for Syria’s missing and disappeared

  • 83 states voted in favor of adopting the resolution to establish an institution to clarify the fate of the missing, 11 against, and 62 abstained
  • More than 150,000 Syrians have gone missing or been forcibly disappeared during 12 years of civil war in the country

NEW YORK CITY: In a milestone decision as part of the international response to the war in Syria, the UN General Assembly on Thursday voted to establish an independent institution to investigate and clarify the fate of more than 150,000 Syrians who have gone missing or been forcibly disappeared at the hands of the Syrian regime, opposition forces, or terrorist groups since the conflict began 12 years ago.
Introducing the draft resolution, Luxembourg’s permanent representative to the UN, Olivier Maes, paid tribute to the “strength and courage” of Syrian families who have “been desperately seeking to find out what happened to their loved ones and where they are every day.”
He added: “Families, especially women, face administrative and legal difficulties, financial uncertainties and deep trauma as they continue to search for their missing loved ones.”




Olivier Maes, Luxembourg’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations. (AFP)

A large number of international, nongovernmental, humanitarian, and family-focused organizations — including the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Commission on Missing Persons, and the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic — investigate and follow up on missing-persons cases in Syria.
However, a lack of coordination leaves families in limbo as they seek information about the whereabouts of loved ones, and victims and survivors unsure of where to share any details they might have.
Families have been pushing for the establishment of a dedicated, independent, international agency, commensurate with the scale and complexity of the crisis, to investigate the fate of loved ones.
Guided by their views and advice, the UN secretary-general published a report last year that concluded such an international institution, equipped with a robust mandate to investigate and clarify the fate of the missing and provide support for their families, would be the cornerstone of a comprehensive solution to the crisis.
The resultant resolution was sponsored by more than 50 countries including Albania, Australia, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovenia and Spain.
Maes said the new institution “will reinforce complementarity and avoid duplication, (serve) as a single point of entry for collecting and comparing data, (and) ensure coordination and communication with all relevant actors and ongoing initiatives.”
He stressed that the resolution “does not point the finger at anyone” and added: “It has only one goal and that is a humanitarian goal: Improve the situation of Syrian families who do not know what has happened to their brother, to their son, father, husband or other relative, alleviate the suffering of these victims by providing them with the support that they need and the responses to which they’re entitled under international humanitarian law.”
A representative of the EU expressed hope that “this new humanitarian institution can help heal some of the wounds of 12 years of conflict. And in so doing, that it will play an important role in contributing to efforts toward reconciliation and sustainable peace.”
US ambassador Jeffrey De Laurentis, reiterated that the resolution is humanitarian in nature and added: “It is focused on all missing Syrians, regardless of ethnicity, religion or political affiliation.
“Many Syrians have asked us to remember who this institution seeks to defend — the humans missing and detained with a full life yet to live. They are not statistics, they are spouses, children, siblings, parents, friends, colleagues.
“As their harrowing testimonies show, we must deliver long-overdue answers to the victims and their families who deserve our support.”
De Laurentis noted that Damascus had refused to engage with efforts to create the institution.
Russia’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, Maria Zabolotskaya, said that the General Assembly, “in violation of the UN Charter, is today being invited to create an instrument of pressure on Syria under a cynical humanitarian pretext, which has nothing to do with the true objectives of this enterprise.”
She added that far from being independent or impartial, the mechanism “can only obediently fulfill the orders of its sponsors” and insisted that “in order to truly solve the problem of missing persons, developing substantive cooperation with Damascus is necessary, as is providing it with effective assistance and lifting illegal and unilateral sanctions that negatively affect these efforts, as well as humanitarian recovery on the whole.”
She also called for an end to “foreign occupation of the country” and the repatriation of “foreign citizens present there.”
Bassam Sabbagh, Syria’s permanent representative to the UN, said the resolution is “politicized and targets the Syrian Arab Republic.”
He added: “This draft clearly reflects flagrant interference in our internal affairs and provides new evidence of the hostile approach being pursued by certain Western states against Syria. At the heart of this group is the United States.”

 

 


Israeli strikes target Lebanon’s Baalbek for first time since Gaza war

Updated 19 min 1 sec ago
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Israeli strikes target Lebanon’s Baalbek for first time since Gaza war

  • The strikes are among the deepest into Lebanon since the Israel-Hamas war began more than four months ago
  • Israel’s air force carried out three airstrikes on the outskirts of the village of Buday, near Baalbek, targeting a convoy of trucks

BEIRUT: The Israeli military said Monday its air force was striking targets of the militant Hebollah group “deep inside Lebanon,” where residents reported explosions near the northeastern city of Baalbek.
The strikes are among the deepest into Lebanon since the Israel-Hamas war began more than four months ago. They come a day after Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant vowed to step up attacks on Lebanon’s Hezbollah even if a cease-fire is reached with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Lebanese security officials said Israel’s air force carried out three airstrikes on the outskirts of the village of Buday, near Baalbek, targeting a convoy of trucks. Buday is a Hezbollah stronghold. There was no immediate word on casualties.
A Hezbollah official confirmed that three strikes hit near Baalbek. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.
The Israeli army said further details will follow.
The airstrikes near Baalbek came hours after Hezbollah said its fighters on Monday shot down an Israeli drone over its stronghold in a province in southern Lebanon. Anotehr missile fired by Hezbollah toward the drone was intercepted by Israel, and landed near a synagogue in a town close to Nazareth in northern Israel. There were no injuries or damage.
Hezbollah has been exchanging fire with Israeli troops along the border since the Israel-Hamas broke on Oct. 7.
The strike on Baalbek, because of its location deep inside Lebanon, is the most significant one since the early January airstrike on Beirut that killed top Hamas official Saleh Arouri.
Hezbollah, which has been exchanging fire with Israel throughout the war in Gaza, has said it will halt its nearly daily attacks on Israel if a cease-fire is reached in Gaza.


Palestinian Prime Minister Shtayyeh resigns

Updated 26 February 2024
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Palestinian Prime Minister Shtayyeh resigns

  • Move comes amid growing US pressure on President Mahmoud Abbas to shake up Palestinian Authority
  • Shtayyeh says he is resigning to allow broader consensus among Palestinians following Israel’s war on Gaza

RAMALLAH: Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Monday he was resigning to allow for the formation of a broad consensus among Palestinians about political arrangements following Israel’s war against the Islamist group Hamas in Gaza.
The move comes amid growing US pressure on President Mahmoud Abbas to shake up the Palestinian Authority as international efforts have intensified to stop the fighting in Gaza and begin work on a political structure to govern the enclave after the war.
His resignation must still be accepted by Abbas, who may ask him to stay on as caretaker until a permanent replacement is appointed.
In a statement to cabinet, Shtayyeh, an academic economist who took office in 2019, said the next stage would need to take account of the emerging reality in Gaza, which has been laid waste by nearly five months of heavy fighting.
He said the next stage would “require new governmental and political arrangements that take into account the emerging reality in the Gaza Strip, the national unity talks, and the urgent need for an inter-Palestinian consensus.”
In addition, it would require “the extension of the Authority’s authority over the entire land, Palestine.”
The Palestinian Authority, formed 30 years ago under the interim Oslo peace accords, exercises limited governance over parts of the occupied West Bank but lost power in Gaza following a struggle with Hamas in 2007.
Fatah, the faction that controls the PA, and Hamas have made efforts to reach an agreement over a unity government and are due to meet in Moscow on Wednesday. A senior Hamas official said the move had to be followed by a broader agreement on governance for the Palestinians.
“The resignation of Shtayyeh’s government only makes sense if it comes within the context of national consensus on arrangements for the next phase,” senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters.


UAE floating hospital begins operations at Al-Arish to treat Palestinian patients

Updated 26 February 2024
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UAE floating hospital begins operations at Al-Arish to treat Palestinian patients

AL-ARISH: A floating hospital provided by the UAE, anchored in Egypt’s Port city of Al-Arish, commenced operations on Sunday to provide treatment for injured Palestinians.

The initiative is a part of the UAE’s “Gallant Knight 3” humanitarian operation.

The 100-bed hospital has operating rooms, an intensive care unit, radiology section, laboratory and pharmacy, state news agency WAM reported.

A 20-year-old Palestinian man was the first to undergo surgery at the hospital. He was treated for a gunshot wound to the shoulder and injuries caused by shrapnel.

Doctors repositioned his shoulder, and he will require a follow-up operation to repair nerve damage.

The floating hospital was established in cooperation with the Department of Health - Abu Dhabi and AD Ports Group. It is being staffed by 100 medical workers who are skilled in anesthesia, general surgery, orthopedics, and emergency medicine.

Dr. Falah Al-Mahmoud, director of the hospital, said the facility would help alleviate the suffering of Palestinians.

Dr. Falah Al-Mahmoud, director of the hospital, said the facility would help alleviate the suffering of Palestinians. (WAM)

 


Palestinian Prime Minister Shtayyeh resigns

Updated 26 February 2024
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Palestinian Prime Minister Shtayyeh resigns

  • Palestinian PM says ‘new political measures’ needed amid Gaza war
  • The move comes amid growing US pressure on President Mahmoud Abbas to shake up the Palestinian Authority

RAMALLAH: Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Monday he was resigning to allow for the formation of a broad consensus among Palestinians about political arrangements following Israel’s war against the Islamist group Hamas in Gaza.
The move comes amid growing US pressure on President Mahmoud Abbas to shake up the Palestinian Authority as international efforts have intensified to stop the fighting in Gaza and begin work on a political structure to govern the enclave after the war.
His resignation must still be accepted by Abbas, who may ask him to stay on as caretaker until a permanent replacement is appointed.
In a statement to cabinet, Shtayyeh, an academic economist who took office in 2019, said the next stage would need to take account of the emerging reality in Gaza, which has been laid waste by nearly five months of heavy fighting.
He said the next stage would “require new governmental and political arrangements that take into account the emerging reality in the Gaza Strip, the national unity talks, and the urgent need for an inter-Palestinian consensus.”
In addition, it would require “the extension of the Authority’s authority over the entire land, Palestine.”
The Palestinian Authority, formed 30 years ago under the interim Oslo peace accords, exercises limited governance over parts of the occupied West Bank but lost power in Gaza following a struggle with Hamas in 2007.
Fatah, the faction that controls the PA, and Hamas have made efforts to reach an agreement over a unity government and are due to meet in Moscow on Wednesday. A senior Hamas official said the move had to be followed by a broader agreement on governance for the Palestinians.
“The resignation of Shtayyeh’s government only makes sense if it comes within the context of national consensus on arrangements for the next phase,” senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters.


Yemen’s Houthis announce first civilian death in US-UK strikes

Updated 26 February 2024
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Yemen’s Houthis announce first civilian death in US-UK strikes

  • One person was killed and eight wounded a day after US and British forces said they fired on 18 targets
SANAA: Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militia have reported the first civilian death in US and British air strikes after the latest round of joint raids over the weekend.
One person was killed and eight wounded, the Houthis’ official news agency said late on Sunday, a day after US and British forces said they fired on 18 targets across the country.
The US-British strikes were in response to dozens of Houthi drone and missile attacks on Red Sea shipping since November, which the rebels say are in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza war.
“The American-British aggression on the district of Maqbana in the governorate of Taiz has left one civilian dead and eight wounded,” the Houthis’ Saba agency said, citing a statement from the rebel-run health ministry.
The Houthis, who control war-torn Yemen’s most populated areas, have previously reported the death of 17 of their fighters in the Western strikes targeting military facilities.
The Houthi attacks have had a significant effect on traffic through the busy Red Sea route, forcing some companies into a two-week detour around southern Africa. Last week, Egypt said Suez Canal revenues were down by up to 50 percent this year.
Washington, Israel’s vital ally, gathered an international coalition in December to protect Red Sea traffic. It has launched several rounds of strikes as well as four joint raids with Britain, which began last month.
The Houthis initially said they were targeting Israel-linked shipping in the Red Sea and adjoining Gulf of Aden, but then declared that US and British interests were also “legitimate” targets.