Frankly Speaking: Why has the UN constantly failed Palestine?

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Updated 07 November 2023
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Frankly Speaking: Why has the UN constantly failed Palestine?

  • Pakistan’s permanent representative to UN decries “double standards” when it comes to condemnation of loss of Israeli and Palestinian civilian lives
  • Munir Akram says Israelis get away with assassinating people but when others do something like what Hamas did, they are accused of being terrorists
  • Slams Israel’s rejection of ceasefire calls as “violation of international law in most violent way,” rules out Pakistan’s military involvement in the conflict

DUBAI: Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN has said Israel has been emboldened by the international order’s “double and triple standards,” which he considers to be the “root” of the crisis unfolding in the Middle East.

Reiterating his call for a ceasefire in Gaza, Munir Akram urged the international community to rectify the imbalance at the heart of the UN and in the application of international law.

“This is the nature of the world order in which we live,” he said on Arab News current-affairs show “Frankly Speaking,” adding: “There are double standards and there are triple standards, discrimination against some and discrimination for others. This is the root of our problems in the world we live in, these double standards.”




Munir Akram, permanent representative of Pakistan to the UN, on Frankly Speaking. (AN photo)    

For Akram, faith in the potential of the global system of rules is not entirely lost, noting that the issue is not so much a lack of principles nor a lack of law — both international law and international humanitarian law, which govern the actions of combatants in war — but rather the lack of their “uniform” application.

“These rules should be applicable uniformly and universally to all,” he told “Frankly Speaking” host Katie Jensen. “But that isn’t the case. The Israelis unfortunately have this sense of impunity. They can go and assassinate people and then get away with it and yet claim when others do it, when they do something like what Hamas did, they’re terrorists.

“This double standard is the root cause of the weakness of the international order we have today. And it has to be rectified. People need justice. People need to be treated the same way on the basis of the same laws, the same principles that we all espouse.”




Munir Akram, permanent representative of Pakistan to the UN, speaks to Katie Jensen, host of Frankly Speaking. (AN photo)    

Akram’s comments came as the death toll from Israel’s bombardment in Gaza rose to more than 8,500 people, including at least 3,500 children. Some officials have said one child has been killed every 10 seconds.

The veteran Pakistani diplomat has repeatedly called for a ceasefire, telling both Arab News and the UN Security Council that there is an immediate need not only for a cessation in hostilities but also for the provision of a humanitarian corridor and access into Gaza, and the rejection of any Palestinian displacement, either within the embattled territory or outside it.

“It’s obvious that what needs to happen is a ceasefire. We need to halt the hostilities, halt the aerial bombardment, the invasion of Gaza, the killing that’s taking place,” he said.

“And we saw that with the attack on the (Jabalia) refugee camp. This is unnecessary slaughter of civilians with whatever military objectives that may be.”




A picture taken from the Israeli side of the border with the Gaza Strip on November 2, 2023, shows smoke billowing during Israeli bombardment in the Gaza Strip, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement. (AFP)

Akram asserted that even though international humanitarian law prohibits the targeting and killing of civilians, “that’s happening with impunity today, and certain powers are unable to agree to a ceasefire. This is mind boggling. It’s a violation of international law in the most visible and violent way. And I think the international community needs to stand up for the principles that we all espouse here at the United Nations.”

He also seconded the view of Francesca Albanese, the UN special rapporteur for Palestine who, interviewed on “Frankly Speaking” last week, said the right to defend does not apply to a country that is at the same time an occupying power.

“Absolutely. This is exactly what we’ve said in the Security Council. If you see the first statement which Pakistan made on this, when this conflict broke out, stated clearly that a power which is occupying another people does not, cannot, claim the right to self-defense against those people that it’s occupying,” Akram said.

“I think the law on this is absolutely clear. The demand and the claim made by Israel and its friends that it has the right to defend itself doesn’t apply, isn’t legally defensible in this situation.”

Akram has been blunt in arguing that the “original sin” in the Gaza conflict was not the Hamas attacks of Oct. 7 but rather the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, a position he staked out during a speech to the UN General Assembly that has since received a backlash from pro-Israel groups.




Palestinians search for survivors in the rubble of a building in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on October 31, 2023, amid relentless Israeli bombardment of the Palestinian enclave (AFP)

Asked whether he maintained or had retracted this position, he was unfazed, saying: “No, this is the truth.”

He added: “I don’t take the truth back. I think it’s quite obvious to anybody with any sense of fairness that the problem has arisen because of Israel’s 50 years of occupation of Palestine, the murder and killing of Palestinians with impunity over these decades and, especially in recent years, we’ve seen the manner in which the Palestinians have been treated.

“With regard to the Israeli occupation, I think I’m absolutely confident in my view that when you push a people into a corner, when you suppress them and you kill their children, they’ll react. And this is what has happened.”

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Concerns about escalation continue to hover around the conflict, particularly with not only the influence of Iran through its proxy armies but also the positioning of several US aircraft carriers in the region.

“We’re facing the danger of an international crisis, and that’s another reason — apart from the humanitarian reasons of Palestinian children and women being killed — there’s also a strategic reason, and that’s the danger that this conflict could spread,” Akram said.

“This could have dangerous implications not only for the region but for the world as a whole when you have major powers become involved in a conflict. And the danger of that happening is palpable.”

Added to this are competing efforts in the UN Security Council from China, Russia and the US to push alternative resolutions. This has been most recently seen in the rejection by China and Russia of a US-backed draft resolution calling for a pause in fighting to allow humanitarian access, protection of civilians, and the prevention of arms flows to Hamas and other militant groups in the Gaza Strip.

What followed was a Russian draft calling for a humanitarian “ceasefire” and the withdrawal of Israel’s orders for Palestinians in Gaza to relocate to the south of the territory ahead of a ground invasion.




Israeli military vehicles move near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip on November 1, 2023 in southern Israel, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement. (AFP)

Asked if Pakistan would be willing to get involved militarily, such as by sending peacekeeping troops to Gaza, Akram — who began his second stint as head of Pakistan’s diplomatic mission to the UN in 2019 — said he hopes such a situation will not happen.

“We wouldn’t want to get involved militarily in this conflict, and we think that even talking about it is dangerous. We’d want to see a peaceful solution. That’s what we’re working for,” he said, clarifying that his answer was a “no.”

Akram elaborated on the prospect of a ceasefire, which for him is essential, noting that without one “the danger of the conflict spreading only escalates.” Nevertheless, he remains optimistic that a peaceful resolution can be realized before the conflict spreads further.

While recognizing that international efforts to bring about an end to the conflict by peaceful means have so far failed, he believes that these efforts should not be halted, explaining that alongside the moral and legal measures that could be taken, there are potential economic and political levers that could be pulled.

In advocating this position, Akram said it is Israel and its supporters that must be “convinced” to stop the war, stressing that “we have to try first and foremost to find peaceful ways of stopping this conflict.”




Katie Jensen, the host of “Frankly Speaking.” (AN photo)

He added: “I believe the enormity of the crimes being committed in Gaza is something that should move the international conscience. And hopefully if there’s a sufficient groundswell of support in the entire world, including the Western world where Israel has found support, that if an international conscience is mobilized, we could see a change in the positions of those who are complicit in not halting this war.”

If this fails, Akram was blunt with his assertion that Arab nations and member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation would “have to find ways to respond if Israel doesn’t stop the war.”

And while understanding that there are several “obvious” ways he could think of this happening, he emphasized that they would “try everything possible short of a conflict to try and bring this to an end, and bring this to a just end.”

Asked how he saw the Gaza crisis ending, Akram said the war has to stop. “The two sides have got to get back to talking about the creation of a two-state solution, because I believe there’s a general consensus that that’s the only durable solution,” he added.

“And it’s only these extremists who are leading Israel today who have denied that. The entire world believes that a two-state solution is the answer, and we must get back to that track as soon as possible.”

 


Oil tanker hit by missile off Yemen: security firm

Updated 2 sec ago
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Oil tanker hit by missile off Yemen: security firm

DUBAI: A crude oil tanker was hit by a missile off the coast of Yemen’s rebel-held city of Mokha overlooking the strategic Bab Al-Mandeb strait, maritime security firm Ambrey said Saturday.
“A Panama-flagged crude oil tanker was reportedly ‘attacked’” about 10 nautical miles southwest of Mokha, Ambrey said, adding that information “indicated the vessel was hit by a missile and that there was a fire in the steering gear flat.”
The British navy’s maritime security agency had earlier said it received a report of a vessel “sustaining slight damage after being struck by an unknown object.”
“The vessel and crew are safe and continuing to its next port of call,” United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) added.
It said the incident occurred 76 nautical miles (140 kilometers) off Yemen’s Hodeidah, without specifying the type of vessel involved.
The Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who control much of Yemen, have launched dozens of attacks on vessels in and around the Red Sea since November in a campaign they say is in solidarity with Palestinians in war-torn Gaza.
The rebel attacks have prompted reprisal strikes by US and British forces and the formation of an international coalition to protect the vital shipping lanes through the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.

Israeli forces kill senior Palestinian militant in Jenin: army

Updated 18 May 2024
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Israeli forces kill senior Palestinian militant in Jenin: army

  • The strike by a fighter jet and helicopter killed Islam Khamayseh
  • Khamayseh was a leader of the Jenin Battalion

RAMALLAH: The Israeli military said on Saturday it killed a senior Palestinian militant during an air strike on an “operations center” in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.
“A number of significant terrorists were inside the compound,” the Israeli Defense Forces said in a statement posted to Telegram.
It said the strike by a fighter jet and helicopter killed Islam Khamayseh, a “senior terrorist operative in the Jenin Camp” who was responsible for a series of attacks in the area.
The Al-Quds Brigade, the armed wing of militant group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, confirmed in a statement that Khamayseh was killed and several others wounded during an Israeli raid on Friday night.
It said Khamayseh was a leader of the Jenin Battalion, which is affiliated with Islamic Jihad.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health said one person was killed and eight were wounded and receiving hospital treatment as a result of Israel’s operation in Jenin on Friday night.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967 and its troops routinely carry out incursions into areas such as Jenin, which are nominally under the Palestinian Authority’s security control.
The West Bank has seen a recent surge in violence, particularly since the Israel-Hamas war erupted on October 7.
More than 500 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces or settlers across the West Bank since October 7, according to Palestinian officials, and at least 20 Israelis have been killed over the same period, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
The Gaza Strip has been at war since Hamas’s unprecedented attack on October 7 resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people in Israel, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip has killed at least 35,303 people, most of them civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.


Fierce fighting in northern Gaza as aid starts to roll off US-built pier

Updated 18 May 2024
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Fierce fighting in northern Gaza as aid starts to roll off US-built pier

  • Residents say Israeli bulldozers demolishing homes, shops in Jabalia
  • Hamas says US floating aid pier no substitute for end to Israeli siege

CAIRO: Israeli forces battled Hamas fighters in the narrow alleyways of Jabalia in northern Gaza on Friday in some of the fiercest engagements since they returned to the area a week ago, while in the south militants attacked tanks massing around Rafah.

Residents said Israeli armor had thrust as far as the market at the heart of Jabalia, the largest of Gaza’s eight historic refugee camps, and that bulldozers were demolishing homes and shops in the path of the advance.
“Tanks and planes are wiping out residential districts and markets, shops, restaurants, everything. It is all happening before the one-eyed world,” Ayman Rajab, a resident of western Jabalia, said via a chat app.
Israel had said its forces cleared Jabalia months earlier in the Gaza war, triggered by the deadly Hamas-led attacks on southern Israel on Oct. 7, but said last week it was returning to prevent Islamist militants re-grouping there.
In southern Gaza bordering Egypt, thick smoke rose over Rafah, where an escalating Israeli assault has sent hundreds of thousands of people fleeing from what was one of the few remaining places of refuge.
“People are terrified and they’re trying to get away,” Jens Laerke, UN humanitarian office spokesperson, said in Geneva, adding that most were following orders to move north toward the coast but that there were no safe routes or destinations.
As the fighting raged, the US military said trucks started moving aid ashore from a temporary pier, the first to reach the besieged enclave by sea in weeks.
The World Food Programme, which expects food, water, shelter and medical supplies to arrive through the floating dock, said the aid was transported to its warehouses in Deir Al Balah in central Gaza and told partners it was ready for distribution.

The United Nations earlier reiterated that truck convoys by land — disrupted this month by the assault on Rafah — were still the most efficient way of getting aid in.
“To stave off the horrors of famine, we must use the fastest and most obvious route to reach the people of Gaza – and for that, we need access by land now,” deputy UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said.
US aid was arriving in Cyprus for delivery to Gaza via the new pier, Washington said.
Hamas demanded an end to Israel’s siege and accused Washington of complicity with an Israeli policy of “starvation and blockade.”
The White House said US national security adviser Jake Sullivan would visit Israel on Sunday and stress the need for a targeted offensive against Hamas militants rather than a full-scale assault on Rafah.
A group of US medical workers left the Gaza Strip after getting stuck at the hospital where they were providing care, the White House said.

Humanitarian fears
The Israel Defense Forces said troops killed more than 60 militants in Jabalia in recent days and located a weapons warehouse in a “divisional-level offensive.”
A divisional operation would typically involve several brigades of thousands of troops each, making it one of the biggest of the war.
“The 7th Brigade’s fire control center directed dozens of airstrikes, eliminated terrorists and destroyed terrorist infrastructure,” the IDF said.
At least 35,303 Palestinians have now been killed, according to figures from the enclave’s health ministry, while aid agencies have warned repeatedly of widespread hunger and dire shortages of fuel and medical supplies.
Israel says it must capture Rafah to destroy Hamas and ensure the country’s safety. In the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, 1,200 people died in Israel and 253 were taken hostage, according to Israeli tallies. About 128 hostages are still being held in Gaza.
Israel said on Friday that its forces retrieved the bodies of three people killed at the Nova music festival in Israel on Oct. 7 and taken into Gaza.
In response, Hamas said negotiations were the only way for Israel to retrieve hostages alive: “The enemy will not get its prisoners except as lifeless corpses or through an honorable exchange deal for our people and our resistance.”
Talks on a ceasefire have been at an impasse.

‘Tragic war’
Israeli tanks and warplanes bombarded parts of Rafah on Friday, while the armed wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad said they fired anti-tank missiles and mortars at forces massing to the east, southeast and inside the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.
UNRWA, the main UN aid agency for Palestinians, said more than 630,000 people had fled Rafah since the offensive began on May 6.
“They’re moving to areas where there is no water — we’ve got to truck it in — and people aren’t getting enough food,” Sam Rose, director of planning at UNRWA, told Reuters on Friday by telephone from Rafah, where he said it was eerily quiet.
At the International Court of Justice, or World Court, in The Hague, where South Africa has accused Israel of violating the Genocide Convention, Israeli Justice Ministry official Gilad Noam defended the operation.
The South African legal team, which set out its case for fresh emergency measures the previous day, framed the Israeli military operation as part of a genocidal plan aimed at bringing about the destruction of the Palestinian people.


Fierce fighting in northern Gaza as aid starts to roll off US-built pier

Updated 18 May 2024
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Fierce fighting in northern Gaza as aid starts to roll off US-built pier

  • Residents say Israeli bulldozers demolishing homes and shops in Jabalia in the path of the advance
  • Hamas says US floating aid pier is no substitute for end of Israeli siege of Gaza

CAIRO: Israeli forces battled Hamas fighters in the narrow alleyways of Jabalia in northern Gaza on Friday in some of the fiercest engagements since they returned to the area a week ago, while in the south militants attacked tanks massing around Rafah.

Residents said Israeli armor had thrust as far as the market at the heart of Jabalia, the largest of Gaza’s eight historic refugee camps, and that bulldozers were demolishing homes and shops in the path of the advance.
“Tanks and planes are wiping out residential districts and markets, shops, restaurants, everything. It is all happening before the one-eyed world,” Ayman Rajab, a resident of western Jabalia, said via a chat app.
Israel had said its forces cleared Jabalia months earlier in the Gaza war, triggered by the deadly Hamas-led attacks on southern Israel on Oct. 7, but said last week it was returning to prevent Islamist militants re-grouping there.
In southern Gaza bordering Egypt, thick smoke rose over Rafah, where an escalating Israeli assault has sent hundreds of thousands of people fleeing from what was one of the few remaining places of refuge.
“People are terrified and they’re trying to get away,” Jens Laerke, UN humanitarian office spokesperson, said in Geneva, adding that most were following orders to move north toward the coast but that there were no safe routes or destinations.
As the fighting raged, the US military said trucks started moving aid ashore from a temporary pier, the first to reach the besieged enclave by sea in weeks.
The World Food Programme, which expects food, water, shelter and medical supplies to arrive through the floating dock, said the aid was transported to its warehouses in Deir Al Balah in central Gaza and told partners it was ready for distribution.

Ships are seen near a temporary floating pier built to receive humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip in Gaza Beach on May 18, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces/Handout via REUTERS)

The United Nations earlier reiterated that truck convoys by land — disrupted this month by the assault on Rafah — were still the most efficient way of getting aid in.
“To stave off the horrors of famine, we must use the fastest and most obvious route to reach the people of Gaza – and for that, we need access by land now,” deputy UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said.
US aid was arriving in Cyprus for delivery to Gaza via the new pier, Washington said.
Hamas demanded an end to Israel’s siege and accused Washington of complicity with an Israeli policy of “starvation and blockade.”
The White House said US national security adviser Jake Sullivan would visit Israel on Sunday and stress the need for a targeted offensive against Hamas militants rather than a full-scale assault on Rafah.
A group of US medical workers left the Gaza Strip after getting stuck at the hospital where they were providing care, the White House said.

Ships are seen near a temporary floating pier built to receive humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip in Gaza Beach on May 18, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces/Handout via REUTERS)

Humanitarian fears
The Israel Defense Forces said troops killed more than 60 militants in Jabalia in recent days and located a weapons warehouse in a “divisional-level offensive.”
A divisional operation would typically involve several brigades of thousands of troops each, making it one of the biggest of the war.
“The 7th Brigade’s fire control center directed dozens of airstrikes, eliminated terrorists and destroyed terrorist infrastructure,” the IDF said.
At least 35,303 Palestinians have now been killed, according to figures from the enclave’s health ministry, while aid agencies have warned repeatedly of widespread hunger and dire shortages of fuel and medical supplies.
Israel says it must capture Rafah to destroy Hamas and ensure the country’s safety. In the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, 1,200 people died in Israel and 253 were taken hostage, according to Israeli tallies. About 128 hostages are still being held in Gaza.
Israel said on Friday that its forces retrieved the bodies of three people killed at the Nova music festival in Israel on Oct. 7 and taken into Gaza.
In response, Hamas said negotiations were the only way for Israel to retrieve hostages alive: “The enemy will not get its prisoners except as lifeless corpses or through an honorable exchange deal for our people and our resistance.”
Talks on a ceasefire have been at an impasse.

’Tragic war’
Israeli tanks and warplanes bombarded parts of Rafah on Friday, while the armed wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad said they fired anti-tank missiles and mortars at forces massing to the east, southeast and inside the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.
UNRWA, the main UN aid agency for Palestinians, said more than 630,000 people had fled Rafah since the offensive began on May 6.
“They’re moving to areas where there is no water — we’ve got to truck it in — and people aren’t getting enough food,” Sam Rose, director of planning at UNRWA, told Reuters on Friday by telephone from Rafah, where he said it was eerily quiet.
At the International Court of Justice, or World Court, in The Hague, where South Africa has accused Israel of violating the Genocide Convention, Israeli Justice Ministry official Gilad Noam defended the operation.
The South African legal team, which set out its case for fresh emergency measures the previous day, framed the Israeli military operation as part of a genocidal plan aimed at bringing about the destruction of the Palestinian people.


WHO says no medical supplies received in Gaza for 10 days

Updated 18 May 2024
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WHO says no medical supplies received in Gaza for 10 days

GENEVA: The World Health Organization said Friday that it has received no medical supplies in the Gaza Strip for 10 days as Israel pursues a new offensive against Hamas.
Israel’s closure of the Rafah crossing into Gaza has caused “a difficult situation,” WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said. “The last medical supplies that we got in Gaza was before May 6.”
Israeli troops entered the city of Rafah on May 7 to extend their offensive against Hamas over the militant group’s attacks seven months earlier. They closed the Rafah crossing into Egypt that is crucial for humanitarian supplies.
With UN agencies warning of a growing risk of famine in Gaza, the Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings from Israel are also virtually shut down.
Jasarevic said the biggest concern was over fuel needed to keep clinics and hospitals running. Gaza’s health facilities need up to 1.8 million liters of fuel a month to keep operating.
The spokesman said only 159,000 liters had entered Rafah since the border closure. “This is clearly not sufficient,” he added, highlighting how only 13 out of 36 hospitals across the Palestinian territory were now “partially” operating.
“Hospitals still functioning are running out of fuel, and that puts so many lives at danger,” said Jasarevic. “Current military operations in Rafah are putting countless lives at risk.”
The Hamas attack on October 7 resulted in the death of more than 1,170 people in Israel, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures. Out of 252 people taken hostage, 128 are still held inside Gaza, but the army says 38 have died.
More than 35,300 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the Palestinian territory since the war broke out, according to data provided by the health ministry of Hamas-run Gaza.