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
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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 aa.com 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.”


ICRC official describes Rafah as a ‘ghost town’

Updated 6 sec ago
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ICRC official describes Rafah as a ‘ghost town’

  • Desperation among Gaza’s 2.4 million population has increased as fighting rages, sparking warnings from agencies that they are unable to deliver aid

JERUSALEM: Days after Israel announced a daily pause in fighting on a key route to allow more aid into Gaza, chaos in the besieged Palestinian territory has left vital supplies piled up and undistributed in the searing summer heat.
More than eight months of war have led to dire humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip and repeated UN warnings of famine.
William Schomburg, International Committee of the Red Cross chief in Rafah, described Rafah City as a “ghost town.”
“It is a ghost town in the sense that you see very few people, high levels of destruction, and just another symbol of the unfolding tragedy that has become Gaza over the last nine months,” he said.
The UN food agency has said its aid convoys have been looted inside Gaza by “desperate people.”
Desperation among Gaza’s 2.4 million population has increased as fighting rages, sparking warnings from agencies that they are unable to deliver aid.
Israel says it has let supplies in and called on agencies to step up deliveries.
“The breakdown of public order and safety is increasingly endangering humanitarian workers and operations in Gaza,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, said in a briefing.
“Alongside the fighting, criminal activities and the risk of theft and robbery has effectively prevented humanitarian access to critical locations.”
But Israel says it has allowed hundreds of trucks of aid into southern Gaza, trading blame with the UN over why the aid is stacking up.
It shared aerial footage of containers lined up on the Gazan side of the Kerem Shalom crossing and more trucks arriving to add to the stockpile.
With civil order breaking down in Gaza, the UN says it has been unable to pick up any supplies from Kerem Shalom since Tuesday, leaving crucial aid in limbo.

 

 


Houthi claims of attack on US aircraft carrier are false, US officials say

Updated 6 min 29 sec ago
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Houthi claims of attack on US aircraft carrier are false, US officials say

  • “That is incorrect,” one of the officials said
  • In more than 70 attacks, the Houthis have sunk two vessels, seized another

WASHINGTON: A claim by Yemen’s Houthi group on Saturday that its forces had attacked the US aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Red Sea is false, two US officials told Reuters.
“That is incorrect,” one of the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Iran-aligned Houthis first launched drone and missile strikes in the key waterway in November in what they say is solidarity with Palestinian militants in Gaza, where Israel has waged a more than eight-month-old war.
In more than 70 attacks, the Houthis have sunk two vessels, seized another and killed at least three seafarers.
Earlier the Houthi group said its forces had attacked the Eisenhower in the Red Sea and the operation had achieved its objectives successfully without elaborating. The group also said it attacked a commercial ship, Transworld Navigator, in the Arabian Sea. It did not say when the attacks took place.
A Houthi statement said the Transworld Navigator took a direct hit from a missile.


Egyptian homes celebrate pilgrims’ return with Hajj murals

Updated 22 June 2024
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Egyptian homes celebrate pilgrims’ return with Hajj murals

  • Worshippers parade through villages on horseback as part of traditional festivities

CAIRO: As Egyptian pilgrims return from their spiritual journey to Saudi Arabia, waiting families have begun plans for celebrations in homes decorated with special murals.

Festive images depict Hajj symbols such as airplanes, the Kaaba, Mount Arafat, and camels, celebrating the fulfillment of the sacred pilgrimage. 

Emad Abdel Latif, a folklore professor at Assiut University, told Arab News that the “deep-rooted tradition begins as soon as the pilgrim departs for the holy lands.”

He said the homes “are initially painted, typically in blue, and then adorned with murals that symbolize aspects of the Hajj, including the Kaaba and the aircraft transporting the pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.”

Abdel Latif added: “This custom also includes inscribing phrases such as ‘Labaik Allahumma Labaik’ (Here I am, O God, here I am), ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is the Greatest), along with wishes for a blessed Hajj and forgiven sins.”

Traditionally, celebrations included a religious ceremony, during which returning pilgrims might parade through their village on horseback, while sweets are distributed among onlookers. 

Said Al-Badri, a mural artist from Giza, described the intricate planning that goes into creating the artworks.

“Depending on the complexity, a single mural can take one to two hours, while a complete home mural might require a full day of work,” he said.

“These murals visually narrate the pilgrim’s journey — boarding the plane, circling the Kaaba, the ritual walk between Safa and Marwa, standing at Mount Arafat, and visiting the Prophet’s tomb. They are enriched with Qur’anic verses and popular phrases of congratulation.”

Al-Badri learnt the art from his father, and has dedicated himself to preserving this cultural tradition.

“Each year, as pilgrims return, I continue this legacy, enhancing our local heritage through these festive decorations,” he said.

Amira Mahmoud’s mother was one of more than 1.8 million people who undertook the Hajj pilgrimage this year. The murals “add to our celebration,” she said.

“Our community deeply values these traditions, which embellish our homes, and reinforce familial and communal bonds.”

Mahmoud highlights the significance of these murals in preserving cultural heritage.

“These artworks are more than decorations. They are a vibrant testament to our rich traditions, inviting every returning pilgrim to the heart of community life.”


Egypt PM orders measures to prevent fraud in Hajj trips

Updated 22 June 2024
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Egypt PM orders measures to prevent fraud in Hajj trips

  • The prime minister presided over a crisis cell meeting initiated by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, focusing on the deaths of Egyptian pilgrims
  • Preliminarily, 16 travel agencies were identified as circumventing regulations and transporting pilgrims without offering proper services

CAIRO: Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly has ordered 16 tourism companies to be stripped of their licenses and referred their managers to the public prosecutor’s office for illegally facilitating pilgrims’ travel to Makkah.
The prime minister presided over a crisis cell meeting initiated by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, focusing on the deaths of Egyptian pilgrims.
A report discussed at the meeting highlighted that the rise in the deaths of unregistered Egyptian pilgrims stemmed from some companies that “organized the Hajj programs using a personal visit visa, which prevents its holders from entering Makkah” via official channels.
It emerged that attempts to bypass the official process included trekking through desert paths and the absence of suitable accommodation at other sacred sites, leading to exhaustion among unregistered pilgrims due to severe heat.
Preliminarily, 16 travel agencies were identified as circumventing regulations and transporting pilgrims without offering proper services.
The prime minister ordered the immediate revocation of these companies’ licenses, referred the responsible people to public prosecution, and imposed fines to benefit the bereaved families of the deceased pilgrims.
During the meeting, measures were discussed to prevent such incidents in the future, including enforcing immediate actions against companies or entities that facilitated these irregular pilgrimages.
Madbouly said that although the official Egyptian Hajj delegation comprises more than 50,000 pilgrims, it was difficult to ascertain the number of unregistered travelers due to the absence of recorded data.
An official source, preferring anonymity, told Arab News that high fatality numbers reported might include many who traveled under visit visas — not Hajj visas.
He suggested that those responsible for “these transgressions face severe repercussions, possibly extending beyond license revocation to criminal prosecution.”
The French news agency AFP reported that the death toll among Egyptian pilgrims for this year’s Hajj had risen to 600, indicating the majority were not part of the official delegation.
Regarding legal responsibilities, Egyptian lawyer Ahmed Abul Saud said that travel agencies bear criminal responsibility if they knowingly facilitate these illegal activities.
Conversely, he said that if they were unaware and merely issued visas based on client requests, it would be easier to hold them accountable if it was proven they had explicit knowledge of the pilgrims’ intentions.
Saturday’s discussions also revealed that some companies possibly knew what the unofficial pilgrims planned, while others may have been unaware, issuing visas without knowing the intended misuse.
This situation underscores the complexity of ensuring that all travel facilitators adhere strictly to legal and ethical standards, emphasizing the need for robust oversight and accountability measures to prevent future occurrences.
Officials said that ensuring all travel facilitators adhere to legal and ethical standards required robust oversight and accountability measures.


EU top diplomat demands probe into Gaza Red Cross office shelling

Updated 22 June 2024
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EU top diplomat demands probe into Gaza Red Cross office shelling

  • The EU condemns the shelling which damaged the ICRC office in Gaza

BRUSSELS: EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell on Saturday called for a probe into deadly shelling that damaged an office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Gaza.


“The EU condemns the shelling which damaged the ICRC office in Gaza and led to dozens of casualties. An independent investigation is needed and those responsible must be held accountable,” Borrell wrote on X.