54 killed in clashes in area claimed by Sudan, South Sudan: UN

A person receives help as locals gather at a UN peacekeeper camp following deadly attacks, in Dokura, Abyei region, Sudan-South Sudan border area, in this still image obtained from a social media video released January 28, 2024. (REUTERS)
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Updated 30 January 2024
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54 killed in clashes in area claimed by Sudan, South Sudan: UN

  • UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned the violence and appealed to the governments of both sides to investigate so those responsible could be brought to justice

JUBA: Fighting between rival communities in a disputed region claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan has killed 54 people, including two UN peacekeepers, the United Nations said on Monday, calling for calm.
The clashes in Abyei, a contested oil-rich territory straddling the border of both countries, broke out at the weekend, according to local authorities.
The United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) said it “strongly condemns these attacks against civilians and peacekeepers.”
“Currently, according to local authorities, 52 civilians have lost their lives, while 64 others are said to be gravely wounded,” it said.
It said peacekeepers came under fire on Sunday “while transporting affected civilians from a UNISFA base to a hospital.”
A Pakistani peacekeeper was killed, and “four uniformed personnel and one local civilian sustained injury,” it said.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned the violence and appealed to the governments of both sides to investigate so those responsible could be brought to justice, said his spokesman Stephane Dujarric, with attacks on peacekeepers potentially constituting a war crime.
A Ghanaian peacekeeper had been killed on Saturday, UNISFA added, calling for an investigation into the violence.
Located between Sudan and South Sudan, Abyei has been a flashpoint since the South gained independence in 2011.
According to authorities in the Abyei Special Administrative Area, armed youths and a local rebel militia carried out a series of “barbaric coordinated attacks,” starting on Saturday morning.

Rou Manyiel Rou, secretary general for the Abyei Special Administrative Area, said on Saturday that the violence was tied to a long-running “conflict between (the) Ngok and Twic” communities.
In a statement published on Monday, Britain, Norway and the United States, the international “Troika” that sponsored South Sudan’s independence, said they were “deeply concerned by the escalation of violence in recent months between communities living in and around” Abyei.
“All leaders who have influence with involved communities and who fail to use it to support peace are demonstrating their disregard for the interests of their people,” the Troika said.
The attacks follow clashes in November last year that killed 32 people, including a UN peacekeeper.
A regional UN envoy expressed concern in November that fighting within Sudan was drawing closer to the country’s border with South Sudan and Abyei.
Hanna Tetteh, the UN special envoy for the Horn of Africa, said Abyei’s proximity to the fighting between Sudan’s rival forces threatened to destabilize the already fragile region and its sometimes volatile local dynamics.
She said the Sudan crisis had also “effectively put on hold” talks between leaders from both countries over Abyei’s long-disputed status.
The 12-year-old UN peacekeeping mission in Abyei currently comprises some 4,000 military and police personnel.
 

 


Human rights groups join legal review of UK arms sales to Israel

Updated 6 sec ago
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Human rights groups join legal review of UK arms sales to Israel

  • Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Oxfam allowed to submit evidence in case brought by Al-Haq, Global Legal Action Network
  • UK has issued 100 new arms licenses to Israel since start of war in Gaza that has killed over 35,000 Palestinians

LONDON: Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Oxfam will be able to provide evidence to a High Court judicial review of UK arms sales to Israel.
The decision, made by a judge on Thursday, will see the three prominent groups submit testimony to the review launched by Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq and the Global Legal Action Network.
The case is expected to be heard in October, with UK government lawyers having previously sought to block HRW and Amnesty from submitting evidence.
It comes after it was revealed that the UK government has issued over 100 new arms export licenses for Israel since Oct. 7.
UK Department for Business and Trade data also showed that no licenses have been revoked in that period, during which more than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli military in Gaza.
The UK government is legally obligated to suspend licenses if it is found that exported weapons could be used to break international law, which numerous organizations, including GLAN and Al-Haq, say has already happened.
HRW and Amnesty had requested that they be allowed to participate in the review as they are “better placed in terms of capacity and resources” than GLAN and Al-Haq to contribute evidence due to “several decades” of experience in the field.
Amnesty International UK’s CEO Sacha Deshmukh said in a statement: “This is a very welcome decision and we look forward to presenting our evidence to the court. We’ve always believed it was vital that the court has the fullest opportunity to review expert human rights evidence from ourselves and Human Rights Watch.
“Our evidence demonstrates the gap between the Israeli military and political leadership’s policies and practices and their legal obligations, and shows how this gap has resulted in Israeli forces repeatedly committing grave breaches of international humanitarian law.
“The UK’s continued sale of components for equipment such as US-made F-35 jets despite the clear risk that these could be used by Israel in the commission of serious violations of international law is making a mockery of the UK’s own arms export rules and needs to be stopped as a matter of urgency.”
HRW’s UK director, Yasmine Ahmed, said in a statement: “We welcome the court’s decision to allow Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to intervene with key evidence in this critical case.
“In the face of Israel’s ongoing crimes in Gaza, the UK government presents the nonsensical argument that it is lawful to continue sending arms to Israel on the basis that Israel is committed to complying with international law. Our evidence shows the exact opposite.
“Time and again, Israel’s official statements, policies and practice are in direct contradiction with international law and the results are clear to see: children in Gaza are dying of starvation and starvation-related illnesses.
“It is critical that the Government’s justification for arming Israel is properly scrutinized by the UK courts.
“The law is very clear: licenses should be suspended when there is a clear risk that arms and military equipment might be used to facilitate or commit serious violations of international law.
“As Israel continues to carry out widespread serious violations, including war crimes, the UK should immediately suspend arms licenses to avoid breaching its own laws and being complicit in these grave abuses.
“While this decision is of course welcome, it is a sorry state of affairs that the case even needed to be brought. We shouldn’t have to drag ministers in front of judges to have them comply with their own laws.”
Oxfam CEO Halima Begum said in a statement: “Oxfam has been systematically prevented from getting life-saving aid into the enclave, and our staff and partners face a constant threat to their lives while trying to sustain basic humanitarian operations.”
The UK government has said its licenses are kept under “careful and continual review.”


Israeli polls show Netanyahu party narrowing gap behind Gantz

Updated 14 min 25 sec ago
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Israeli polls show Netanyahu party narrowing gap behind Gantz

  • The polls showed Likud winning 21 seats behind the National Unity Party on 24
  • Both polls showed a majority of voters would prefer Gantz as prime minister in a head-to-head choice with Netanyahu

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right wing Likud party has reduced the gap behind the centrist party of former minister Benny Gantz, who quit the wartime unity government on Sunday, two polls showed on Friday.
The polls, for the left wing Ma’ariv daily and the right wing Israel Hayom newspaper, showed Likud winning 21 seats behind the National Unity Party on 24. The Ma’ariv poll last week showed Gantz’s party on 27 seats, while at the start of the year, it was regularly polling in the high 30s.
The Ma’ariv poll shows the current ruling coalition winning 52 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, against 58 for the main opposition parties, with the balance of 10 seats held by the United Arab List and the left-wing Hadash-Ta’al alliance.
The Israel Hayom poll put the coalition on 50 seats against 61 for the opposition parties and 9 for the UAL and Hadash-Ta’al.
Both polls showed a majority of voters would prefer Gantz as prime minister in a head-to-head choice with Netanyahu. However, the Israel Hayom poll showed that if former prime minister Naftali Bennett were to join forces with Avigdor Liberman and Gideon Saar, two other center right politicians from outside the Likud camp, their alliance could beat both Likud and Gantz’s National Unity Party.
Gantz, a former army general and defense minister in the last government, joined Netanyahu’s coalition last year as a gesture of national unity following the devastating attack by Hamas on Oct 7.
However, he clashed repeatedly with other ministers and quit the government after demanding Netanyahu articulate a clear strategic plan for the war in Gaza, now in its ninth month.
Netanyahu, who was widely blamed for the security failures that allowed the Oct. 7 attack to take place, has refused to call early elections and would not normally face voters until 2026 if his coalition with a clutch of religious and right wing pro-settler parties holds.


Sudan’s army says it has killed US-sanctioned RSF Darfur commander

Updated 14 June 2024
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Sudan’s army says it has killed US-sanctioned RSF Darfur commander

  • Gibril was a leading commander for the RSF in Al-Fashir

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s army said on Friday it had killed Ali Yagoub Gibril, a senior commander for the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) who was under US sanctions, during a battle in the besieged north Darfur city of Al-Fashir.
There was no immediate comment from the RSF.
Gibril was a leading commander for the RSF in Al-Fashir, the last major city in the Darfur region of Sudan that the paramilitary force does not control.
The army said in a statement Yacoub was killed as an RSF attack was thwarted early on Friday by its troops and allied “joint forces” fighting alongside it — a reference to non-Arab former rebel groups from Darfur that are aligned with the army.
The RSF has been besieging Al-Fashir, a city of 1.8 million people, for weeks and top UN officials have warned that the worsening conflict there could trigger widespread intercommunal violence.
The UN Security Council called on Thursday for a halt to the siege.
War between the army and the RSF erupted over conditions for a transition to democracy in mid-April last year in the capital Khartoum, soon spreading to other parts of the country.
The conflict has led to the world’s largest displacement crisis, renewed ethnic violence in Darfur blamed on the RSF and its allies, and a sharp increase in
extreme hunger.


Missile barrage hits northern Israel, emergency services report

Updated 14 June 2024
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Missile barrage hits northern Israel, emergency services report

  • The military said that warning sirens had sounded in northern Israel and emergency services said teams were searching the area
  • Television footage on Friday showed damaged buildings and cars as well as brush fires in several locations caused by strikes

JERUSALEM: Israeli emergency services reported dealing with a string of fires in northern Israel on Friday after dozens of missiles were fired from southern Lebanon into the area around the border town of Kiryat Shemona.
The military said that warning sirens had sounded in northern Israel and emergency services said teams were searching the area, where they reported there was property damage but no casualties.
Television footage on Friday showed damaged buildings and cars as well as brush fires in several locations caused by strikes or falling debris amid heatwave conditions.
The Israeli military has exchanged regular fire with Hezbollah forces across the border in southern Lebanon ever since the start of the war in Gaza in October.
Neither side has appeared to wish a wider conflict, but there has been growing worry that the steady intensification of strikes could push the situation out of control with the risk of a wider conflict in a region that has already seen direct exchanges between Israel and Iran.
The latest salvo came after an Israeli strike killed a senior commander from the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia in southern Lebanon on Tuesday, drawing the heaviest bombardment of northern Israel since the start of the war in October last year.
Tens of thousands of residents have been evacuated from their homes on both sides of the border, creating growing pressure to resolve the stand-off, but diplomatic efforts have so far proved fruitless.
On Friday, the Israeli military said fighter jets and anti-aircraft systems had intercepted 11 of the 16 drones launched by Hezbollah against Israel in the past 72 hours.
“The Israeli Air Force is continuing to operate at all times to thwart terrorist activities and protect Israel’s skies from any threat,” it said in a statement.


Sweden summons Iraqi diplomat to protest death penalties reportedly handed to 2 Swedes

Updated 14 June 2024
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Sweden summons Iraqi diplomat to protest death penalties reportedly handed to 2 Swedes

  • Two Swedes have been sentenced to death in Iraq after being convicted of killing a member of criminal gang
  • “We condemn the use of the death penalty,” Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billström said

COPENHAGEN: Sweden’s Foreign Ministry said officials summoned the Iraqi chargé d’affaires Friday to protest against death sentences handed down to Swedes in Iraq.
Swedish media reported in recent days that two Swedes have been sentenced to death in Iraq after being convicted of killing a member of criminal gang there. On Friday, Sweden’s news agency TT cited the foreign ministry in Stockholm’s confirmation that at least one person with a Swedish passport has received a death sentence.
“We condemn the use of the death penalty. We oppose it always, everywhere and regardless of the circumstances,” Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billström said in a statement.
He said officials conveyed Sweden’s protests at the meeting and demanded that the sentences not be enforced.
TT reported that another two Swedes have been detained for alleged involvement in the murder of a criminal in Iraq.
The killing earlier this year is believed to be linked to an internal gang war between two Swedish groups that has resulted in numerous killings and attempted murders, some occurring outside Sweden. The Foxtrot network and its rival, Rumba, have for years been involved in deadly feuds.
Sweden has grappled with gang violence for years and criminal gangs often recruit teenagers in socially disadvantaged immigrant neighborhoods to carry out hits. Swedish police recorded 109 shootings so far this year, including 14 fatal shootings. Last year, 53 people were killed and 109 were wounded in a total of 363 shootings.