Belgian minister pledges country’s support for genocide case against Israel

Belgian Minister of Development Cooperation Caroline Gennez. (X: @carogennez)
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Updated 21 January 2024

Belgian minister pledges country’s support for genocide case against Israel

  • Caroline Gennez also reaffirms commitment ‘at all levels to making full humanitarian access to Gaza a reality as soon as possible’

RIYADH: A Belgian minister has pledged her country’s backing for the case filed by South Africa with the International Court of Justice seeking to stop Israel’s aggression in Gaza.

In a post on X on Sunday, Caroline Gennez, Belgium’s minister of development cooperation, said: “If the International Court of Justice calls on #Israel to cease its military campaign in #Gaza, our country will fully support it.”


In a previous statement on the same platform, she said: “Belgium pleads in the EU and internationally for permanent ceasefire, full humanitarian access, unconditional release of the hostages, respect for international law and a two-state solution as structural solution to this conflict.”

She noted that Belgium’s position was a “step in the right direction.”

Gennez added: “Our country is taking its responsibility, for human rights and humanitarian law. Meanwhile, I remain committed at all levels to making full humanitarian access to #Gaza a reality as soon as possible.”

South Africa has asked the ICJ to order Israel to immediately stop the war, describing Israeli actions as “genocidal in character because they are intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part” of the Palestinians in Gaza.

It said Israel’s war on Gaza has violated the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The convention was drawn up in the aftermath of World War II, during which more than 6 million Jews in Europe were said to have been exterminated by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime in Germany.

As defined in the convention, genocide are acts such as killings “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group.”

The death toll in Gaza had passed 25,000 as of Jan. 20, more than 100 days into Israel’s war against Hamas, according to Palestinian health officials.

Per the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, known as UNRWA, about 1.7 million people have been displaced in Gaza, with about one million crowded into the Rafah area.

Israel launched a full-scale assault on the Palestinian enclave in reaction to the surprise Hamas attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7, which saw 1,200 people killed and 250 military personnel and civilians taken hostage.

The hearings were held in the court in The Hague on Jan. 11 and 12, during which South Africa presented its case and Israel stood to refute the charges.

A report by Turkiye’s said Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Petra De Sutter “also made a similar call and said her country could not remain silent against Israel’s threat of genocide in Gaza and urged support for the lawsuit filed by South Africa.”

She reportedly said: “Belgium cannot just watch from the sidelines the endless suffering of the people in Gaza. We must act against the threat of genocide.

“I want Belgium to follow South Africa’s lead and take action at the International Court of Justice. I will make this proposal to the Belgian government.”

FAO, Jordan to provide agriculture training to 120 women

Updated 5 sec ago

FAO, Jordan to provide agriculture training to 120 women

  • Agreement will bolster the skills of 120 women in the Jordanian governorates of Balqa, Jerash, and Ajloun

AMMAN: The UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the Jordan River Foundation have signed an agreement to support women in agriculture through vocational and technical training, Jordan News Agency reported on Friday.

JRF provides local communities and refugees with economic opportunities through its Community Empowerment Program, improving standards of living.

The agreement will bolster the skills of 120 women in the Jordanian governorates of Balqa, Jerash, and Ajloun. It will include a technical and vocational training program that will teach project management and financial literacy, in addition to skills in the processing of carob, sumac and honey.

By improving technical and administrative capacities, the agreement aims to empower women to start agricultural initiatives, enhancing their standard of living and raising household earnings.

UAE, Seychelles central banks ink MoU to facilitate cross-border transactions

Updated 7 min 48 sec ago

UAE, Seychelles central banks ink MoU to facilitate cross-border transactions

  • First MoU to establish a framework to promote use of local currencies in settling bilateral transactions
  • Second MoU entails collaboration on services of instant payment platforms, electronic switches, messaging systems

DUBAI: The central banks of the UAE and Seychelles signed two memoranda of understanding on Friday to promote the use of local currencies in cross-border financial and commercial transactions, as well as to link payment and messaging systems between the two countries, the Emirates News Agency reported.

The agreements were inked by CBUAE Gov. Khaled Mohammed Balama and CBS Gov. Caroline Abel in Abu Dhabi.

The first MoU aims to establish a framework to promote the use of local currencies in settling bilateral commercial transactions, developing the exchange market, and facilitating bilateral trade and direct investment, remittance settlement, and financial market development.

Under the second MoU, both parties will collaborate and benefit from the services of instant payment platforms, electronic switches, and messaging systems by directly connecting them in accordance with the countries’ regulatory requirements.

This includes connecting the CBUAE’s Instant Payments Platform, which is being developed as part of the Financial Infrastructure Transformation Programme, to the Seychelles’ similar platform to facilitate mutual acceptance of local cards and transaction processing.

Balama said that the signing of the MoU reflects the central bank’s desire to expand its ties with regional and international counterparts in order to strengthen the UAE’s economic and commercial partnerships around the world.

“The use of the two countries’ currencies for cross-border financial and commercial transactions reflects the growing trade, investment, and financial cooperation and contributes to reducing costs and saving time in settling transactions. This helps in developing the foreign exchange market in the UAE dirham and the Seychellois rupee, leading to enhancing trade exchanges, investments, and remittance between the two countries,” he explained.

Abel added: “For small open island economies like Seychelles, the importance of an effective and efficient financial system to facilitate trade cannot be overemphasized. In this regard, the MoUs just signed between our two central banks, guided by the relevant and applicable laws to safeguard the soundness and integrity of our respective financial systems, can assist this endeavor.”

She stated that the agreement to establish the necessary framework for promoting the use of UAE dirhams and Seychelles rupees in cross-border transactions will improve trade relations between stakeholders in both jurisdictions.

“With the Central Bank of Seychelles spearheading efforts to modernize and develop the Seychelles national payment system, in line with the government’s digital economy agenda, the opportunity to collaborate on interlinking our payment and messaging systems will facilitate the processing and settlement of cross-border financial transactions between the two countries,” Abel said.

US must restore funding to UN aid agency for Palestinians, rights body warns

Updated 19 July 2024

US must restore funding to UN aid agency for Palestinians, rights body warns

  • America, the largest historical donor, is now a ‘shameful outlier’
  • Major aid cutoff in January followed unproven Israeli allegations

LONDON: The US must restore funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, said Human Rights Watch on Friday.

The organization’s appeal also referred to the UK, which, until it was lifted today, had also suspended crucial funding to the largest relief group in Gaza.

In January this year, UNRWA said that 16 countries had suspended donations to the agency.

These included the US, UK, Australia, Austria, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Sweden.

After today, the US is the only country with an active suspension.

The aid cutoff followed Israeli allegations that 19 UNRWA staff, out of the agency’s 3,000 employees, had taken part in the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel.

But an independent review released on April 20, as well as a UN investigation, found no evidence to support the allegations.

UNRWA officials also said that Israeli authorities had failed to provide evidence supporting the claims.

Last week, the US and UK both endorsed a set of UNRWA commitments “recognizing the serious humanitarian, political and security risks that would result from any interruption or suspension of its vital work.”

But despite signing the statement, the US has yet to resume funding to the agency.

Akshaya Kumar, crisis advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, said: “The US is now a shameful outlier as most donors have resumed funding UNRWA.

“Cutting off aid was disproportionate to the allegations against UNRWA from the start. Palestinians in Gaza are facing catastrophic food insecurity, massive shortages of medical supplies, and repeated displacement, and there’s no substitute for UNRWA’s networks, experience, and capacity to provide relief.”

UNRWA, which relies on crucial donations from national governments to carry out its work, has warned that it faces a financial crisis as a result of the stalled funding.

Washington has historically served as the largest donor to UNRWA, and contributed one-third of the agency’s budget last year.

But the US Congress has passed a law forbidding any new funding to UNRWA until at least March next year.

In response to the Human Rights Watch appeal, officials from the Joe Biden administration claimed that US funds were diverted from UNRWA to other aid agencies operating in Gaza.

As a result of Israel’s war, 90 percent of Gaza’s population has been displaced, and 96 percent are expected to face crisis or worse levels of food insecurity by September this year.

Despite the agency’s urgent humanitarian work in the enclave, it has faced a sustained campaign by Israel resulting in reputational and physical damage.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in January that “UNRWA’s mission has to end.”

The country’s foreign minister, Israel Katz, said that the agency would “not be part of the day after” in Gaza.

Human Rights Watch has also documented two cases of UNRWA aid workers being struck by Israeli munitions despite having relayed their locations to the army’s personnel.

UN: Talks with Sudan warring parties ‘encouraging’

Updated 19 July 2024

UN: Talks with Sudan warring parties ‘encouraging’

  • War has raged since April 2023 between the Sudanese regular army under Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces
  • The conflict in Sudan has left tens of thousands dead and displaced more than 10 million people, according to the UN

GENEVA: Talks between a United Nations envoy and delegations from both warring parties in Sudan have proven an encouraging first step, the UN said Friday as the discussions neared a close.
War has raged since April 2023 between the Sudanese regular army under Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, led by his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s personal envoy for Sudan, Ramtane Lamamra, invited delegations from the army and the RSF for talks in Geneva, focused on humanitarian aid and protecting civilians.
The discussions have been taking place under the so-called proximity format, with Lamamra meeting separately with each delegation at a time, in different rooms.
The two delegations were not scheduled to meet each other.
The discussions began on July 11 and are set to conclude on Friday.
Former Algerian foreign minister Lamamra and his team have held around 20 meetings during the talks.
“The personal envoy is encouraged by the willingness of the delegations to engage with him on critical matters related to the situation in Sudan, on which he seeks the necessary cooperation of the warring parties,” UN spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci told a press briefing in Geneva.
“He now counts on the parties to promptly translate their willingness to engage with him into tangible progress on the ground, both in the implementation of existing agreements and through possible unilateral commitments.
“The discussions held in Geneva have been an encouraging initial step in a longer and complex process. The personal envoy will remain in close contact with the leadership of the two warring parties.”
The two delegations were comprised of senior representatives of the warring parties and included humanitarian, security and military experts.
The conflict in Sudan has left tens of thousands dead and displaced more than 10 million people, according to the UN.
A recent UN-backed report said nearly 26 million people, or slightly more than half of the population, were facing high levels of “acute food insecurity.”
The two sides have been routinely accused of war crimes, including indiscriminately shelling residential areas and targeting civilians.

Israel army says signs increasing that Hamas chief Deif killed

Updated 19 July 2024

Israel army says signs increasing that Hamas chief Deif killed

  • Hamas official: Mohammed Deif, commander of the Islamist group’s military wing, is ‘well and directly overseeing’ operations despite the strike

JERUSALEM: The Israeli army said Friday there are mounting indications that a strike in Gaza killed Hamas military chief Mohammed Deif.
“There are increasing signs that imply a successful elimination of (Mohammed) Deif,” Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told a press conference.
Israel has already said the July 13 strike killed Rafa Salama, commander of Hamas’s Khan Yunis Brigade.
A Hamas official, without providing proof, has said Deif, commander of the Islamist group’s military wing, was “well and directly overseeing” operations despite the strike.
But Hagari said the two Hamas leaders “were sitting next to each other at the time of the strike.” He accused Hamas of “hiding what happened” to Deif.
“We will find out, confirm and reveal it,” Hagari said.
Video of the attack showed a grey mushroom cloud billowing over a busy street. The blast left behind a huge crater strewn with the wreckage of tents and a building blown to bits.
Two weapons experts told AFP that a sliver of munition seen in a video of the blast site circulating online was a tail fin from a US-made Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) that converts an old-fashioned unguided bombs into a precision munition. AFP could not independently verify the video.
Trevor Ball, a former US Army explosive ordnance disposal technician, said the JDAM was most likely used with either a 1,000- or 2,000-pound (450 or 900 kilogramme) payload.
Israel has said that Deif and Salama were two of the “masterminds” of the October 7 attacks by Hamas that triggered the Gaza war.
The Hamas attack on Israel resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
Israel’s military retaliation has killed at least 38,848 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to data from the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory.