UN chief urges Sudan’s warring parties to halt hostilities during Muslim holy month of Ramadan

Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese have fled to neighboring Chad since war broke out in April 2023 between the country's armed forces and the paramilitary group led by Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo. (Reuters/File photo)
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Updated 08 March 2024
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UN chief urges Sudan’s warring parties to halt hostilities during Muslim holy month of Ramadan

  • António Guterres made the call ahead of an expected UN Security Council vote Friday on a British-drafted resolution calling for a ceasefire
  • Guterres warned that the humanitarian consequences of the conflict are reaching “colossal proportions”

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged Sudan’s warring parties on Thursday to halt hostilities during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, warning that the nearly year-long conflict threatens the country’s unity and “could ignite regional instability of dramatic proportions.”

Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, the head of Sudan’s military which has been fighting for control of Sudan with the rival commander of the country’s paramilitary force, welcomed the Ramadan ceasefire appeal, Sudan’s UN envoy said. But there was no immediate word from the commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ appeal came ahead of an expected UN Security Council vote Friday on a British-drafted resolution calling for “an immediate cessation of hostilities ahead of the month of Ramadan.”
The draft resolution expresses “grave concern over the spreading violence and the catastrophic and deteriorating humanitarian situation, including crisis levels of acute food insecurity, particularly in Darfur.”
Sudan plunged into chaos last April when long-simmering tensions between the military and paramilitary leaders broke out into street battles in the capital, Khartoum.
Fighting spread to other parts of the country, but in Sudan’s western Darfur region, it took on a different form, with brutal attacks by the Arab-dominated Rapid Support Forces on ethnic African civilians. Thousands of people have been killed.
Two decades ago, Sudan’s vast western Darfur region became synonymous with genocide and war crimes, particularly by the notorious Janjaweed Arab militias against populations that identify as Central or East African.
The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor, Karim Khan, said in late January there are grounds to believe both sides in the current conflict are committing possible war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide in Darfur.
At a Security Council meeting on Sudan, Guterres pointed to renewed military offensives and growing fears of a further expansion of hostilities in the east, calls for arming civilians in various states, and armed groups entering the fighting in western Darfur and South Kordofan.
“All these dangerous developments are pouring fuel on the fire for an even more serious fragmentation of the country, a deepening of intra-and inter-communal tensions, and more ethnic violence,” Guterres said. “A Ramadan cessation of hostilities can help stem the suffering and usher the way to sustainable peace.”
Sudan’s UN Ambassador Al-Harith Mohamed said the government was “very pleased” with what the UN chief said and told the Security Council that he just heard from General Burhan. “He commends the secretary-general on his appeal for a cessation of hostilities during the month of Ramadan,” the ambassador said.
“However, he’s wondering about how to do this,” Mohamed said, stressing that the Rapid Support Forces are continuing their attacks. “All those who would like to see that appeal transformed into action … if they would like to present a mechanism for implementation of it, we would welcome it.”
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, asked whether there was a UN mechanism, replied: “First and foremost, it is within the capacity of both parties to stop fighting.”
“I think everyone is willing and ready to help,” Dujarric told reporters. “The most important thing is that those who have their fingers on the trigger silence their weapons.”
As the conflict continues with no end in sight, Guterres warned that the humanitarian consequences of the conflict are reaching “colossal proportions.”
Half of Sudan’s population — 25 million people — need life-saving assistance, some 18 million are “acutely food insecure,” and the UN is receiving reports of children dying from malnutrition, Guterres said.
Sudan also has the world’s worst internal displacement crisis, with 6.3 million people who fled their homes and remain in the country seeking safety, he said. Civilian infrastructure has been destroyed and 70 percent of health facilities in conflict areas aren’t functioning. And millions of children aren’t going to school.
He said the UN is also receiving reports of systematic sexual violence, including rape and gang rape, as well as abduction and trafficking “for the purpose of sexual exploitation.”
With Ramadan expected to begin around Sunday, depending on the sighting of the new moon, Britain’s deputy UN ambassador James Kariuki said he hopes for a Security Council vote on a Ramadan ceasefire on Friday.
“The Sudanese Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces bear responsibility for the horrendous situation in Sudan,” he told the council. “Shelling and attacks from both sides in heavily populated urban areas and across the entire western region of Sudan continue to kill and terrorize civilians.”
Kariuki echoed the secretary-general’s call for an immediate ceasefire for Ramadan and urged the government to allow humanitarian aid deliveries from neighboring Chad to conflict-torn Darfur, and both sides to allow deliveries across conflict lines.
“It should not be for the military leadership of both the SAF (Sudan Armed Forces) or RSF to determine the political future of Sudan,” Kariuki said. “We call on them to give way to a civilian transitional government that will fully respect the basic human rights of the Sudanese people.”


UN food agency warns that the new US sea route for Gaza aid may fail unless conditions improve

Updated 22 May 2024
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UN food agency warns that the new US sea route for Gaza aid may fail unless conditions improve

  • The UN food agency is now reevaluating logistics and security measures and looking for alternate routes within Gaza

WASHINGTON: The UN World Food Program said Tuesday the new US $320 million pier project for delivering aid to Gaza may fail unless Israel starts ensuring the conditions the humanitarian groups need to operate safely. The operation was halted for at least two days after crowds looted aid trucks coming from the port and one Palestinian man was killed.
Deliveries were stopped Sunday and Monday after the majority of the trucks in an aid convoy Saturday were stripped of all their goods on the way to a warehouse in central Gaza, the WFP said. The first aid transported by sea had entered the besieged enclave on Friday.
The Pentagon said movement of aid from the secured area at the port resumed Tuesday, but the UN said it was not aware of any deliveries on Tuesday.
The UN food agency is now reevaluating logistics and security measures and looking for alternate routes within Gaza, said spokesperson Abeer Etefa. The WFP is working with the US Agency for International Development to coordinate the deliveries.
Only five of the 16 aid trucks that left the secured area on Saturday arrived at the intended warehouse with their cargo intact, another WFP spokesperson, Steve Taravela, told The Associated Press. He said the other 11 trucks were waylaid by what became a crowd of people and arrived without their cargo.
“Without sufficient supplies entering Gaza, these issues will continue to surface. Community acceptance and trust that this is not a one-off event are essential for this operation’s success,” Taravela said in an email. “We have raised this issue with the relevant parties and reiterated our request for alternative roads to facilitate aid delivery. Unless we receive the necessary clearance and coordination to use additional routes, this operation may not be successful.”
The WFP also said Tuesday it has suspended food distribution in the southern Gaza city of Rafah due to a lack of supplies and insecurity.
President Joe Biden ordered the US military’s construction of the floating pier for deliveries of food and other vital supplies. Israeli restrictions on shipments through land borders and overall fighting have put all 2.3 million residents of Gaza in a severe food crisis since the Israel-Hamas war began in October, and US and UN officials say famine has taken hold in the north of Gaza.
Authorities have offered limited details of what transpired with Saturday’s aid convoy. However, Associated Press video shows Israeli armored vehicles on a beach road, then aid trucks moving down the road. Civilians watching from the roadside gradually start to clamber on top of the aid trucks, throwing aid down to people below. Numbers of people then appear to overrun the aid trucks and their goods.
At one point, people are shown carting a motionless man with a chest wound through the crowd. A local morgue later confirmed to the AP the man had been killed by a rifle shot. At another point, shots crackled, and some of the men in the crowd are shown apparently ducking behind aid boxes for cover.
It was not clear who fired the shots. The Israeli military is responsible for security for the aid when it reaches the shore. Once it leaves the secure area at the port, aid groups follow their own security protocols.
Asked about the shooting, the Israeli army told the AP, using the acronym for the Israel Defense Forces: “The IDF is currently focused on eliminating the threat from the terrorist organization Hamas.”
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters Tuesday that the aid convoys do not travel with armed security. He said the best security comes from engagement with various community groups and humanitarian partners so people understand that there will be a constant flow of aid. “That is not possible in an active combat zone,” Dujarric said.
The Pentagon press secretary, Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, said that as of Tuesday 569 metric tons of aid has been delivered to the secured area at the Gaza port. Some of it remains there, however, because distribution agencies are working to find alternative routes to warehouses in Gaza.
Asked if any aid from the pier had yet reached Gaza residents in need, Ryder said, “I do not believe so.” He said aid had resumed moving Tuesday from the secured area into Gaza, after what had been a two-day halt following Saturday’s disruption. He gave no immediate details.
Etefa, the WFP spokesperson in Cairo, said she knew of no deliveries from the shore on Tuesday, however.
Biden announced the US mission to open a new sea route for humanitarian goods during his State of the Union address in March, as pressure built on the administration over civilian deaths in Gaza.
The war began in October after a Hamas-led attack killed about 1,200 people in Israel. Israeli airstrikes and fighting have killed more than 35,000 Palestinians since then, Gaza health officials say.
Many international humanitarian organizations were critical of the US project, saying that while any aid was welcome, surging food through the land crossings was the only way to curb the growing starvation. Jeremy Konyndyk, a former USAID official now leading the Refugees International humanitarian organization, called the pier operation “humanitarian theater” and said it was being done for political effect.
The UN says some 1.1 million people in Gaza — nearly half the population — face catastrophic levels of hunger and that the territory is on the brink of famine. The crisis in humanitarian supplies has spiraled in the two weeks since Israel began an incursion into Rafah on May 6, vowing to root out Hamas fighters. Troops seized the Rafah crossing into Egypt, which has been closed since.
Since May 10, only about three dozen trucks have made it into Gaza via the nearby Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel because fighting makes it difficult for aid workers to reach it, the UN says.
Taravela said little aid or fuel — needed to run aid delivery trucks — is currently reaching any part of Gaza, and stocks of both are almost exhausted.
“The bottom line is that humanitarian operations in Gaza are near collapse,” he wrote.


The US-made helicopter in Iran president’s crash

Updated 22 May 2024
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The US-made helicopter in Iran president’s crash

  • It still has around 40 F-14 Tomcat fighter jets, which became famous in the Tom Cruise film “Top Gun” in the 1980s and have been used by the US Air Force itself for two decades

PARIS: The helicopter in the crash that killed Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was a US-made Bell 212, a model introduced in 1968 during the Vietnam War and last produced in 1998.
Here is what we know about the Bell 212:

Brought into service in 1971, the civilian helicopter had a military version known as Twin Huey, which was used by US troops during the Vietnam conflict.
One of its variants, the Huey UH-1 Iroquois, gained notoriety in an iconic scene in the film “Apocalypse Now” during which US troops play Richard Wagner’s The Ride of the Valkyries on loudspeakers during a raid on a Vietnamese village.
The Bell 212 can carry 13 passengers plus two pilots and fly at more than 250 kilometers (156 miles) per hour, with a range of more than 400 kilometers.
It features a two-blade propeller and is equipped with two Pratt and Whitney engines of 900 horsepower each.
The helicopter was first manufactured in Fort Worth, Texas, before production moved to Mirabel, outside Montreal, from 1988 until 1998, the last year it wast built. It was also made under license in Italy by Agusta.
As of last year, 704 Bell 212 or Bell 412 — its four-blade version — were still in service among armed forces, including in Angola, Argentina, Morocco, Turkiye and Zambia, according to the most recent annual report of industry publication FlightGlobal.

As of 2023, Iran operated 10 Bell 212 helicopters — two used by the air force and the remainder by the navy, according to FlightGlobal.
Tehran was an important client for the American civilian and military aircraft industry under the shah of Iran, a close US ally, until his ouster by the Islamic revolution in 1979.
Iran has sought to keep its aging fleet in the air despite US sanctions that have it made very difficult for Tehran to obtain spare parts.
It still has around 40 F-14 Tomcat fighter jets, which became famous in the Tom Cruise film “Top Gun” in the 1980s and have been used by the US Air Force itself for two decades.
Iran also has a number of F5 fighters, purchased from the United States four decades ago and which first came into service 60 years ago.

The Bell company, which was founded in 1935 and became a subsidiary of industrial group Textron in 1960, still produces helicopters.
The firm prides itself on having been the first to certify a helicopter intended for civilian use, in 1946.
A year later it was an experimental Bell X-1 aircraft that Chuck Yeager piloted as he became the first man to surpass the speed of sound in 1947.
 

 

 


Israel has addressed many of Biden’s concerns over widescale Rafah operation, US official says

Updated 22 May 2024
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Israel has addressed many of Biden’s concerns over widescale Rafah operation, US official says

  • Israel has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry

CAIRO: Israel has addressed many of President Joe Biden’s concerns over its long-simmering plan to carry out a widescale military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah aimed at rooting out Hamas, a senior Biden administration official said Tuesday.
The official, who was not authorized to comment publicly and requested anonymity, said that in talks over the weekend with White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Israeli officials incorporated many changes into their planning that seem to meet concerns about deepening an operation in an area that has been flooded with Palestinian refugees during the seven-month war.
Biden had previously said he opposed a widescale operation in Rafah that did not prioritize the safety of innocent Palestinian civilians.
The official said the administration stopped short of greenlighting the Israeli plan but said Israeli officials’ altered planning suggested they were taking the American administration’s concerns seriously.
About 900,000 Palestinians have fled Rafah in recent weeks after the population swelled to about 1.5 million.

The United Nations suspended food distribution in the southern Gaza city of Rafah on Tuesday due to a lack of supplies and an untenable security situation caused by Israel’s expanding military operation. It warned that humanitarian operations across the territory were nearing collapse.
Along with closed and chaotic land crossings, problems also plagued the US military’s floating pier meant to provide an alternative route for aid into Gaza by sea. Over the weekend, hungry Palestinians took aid from a UN vehicle convoy coming from the pier, and the UN said since then it had been unable to receive trucks there.
Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters in Washington that for the past few days, forward movement of aid from the pier was paused but it resumed Tuesday. There was no confirmation from the UN
The UN has not specified how many people stayed in Rafah since the Israeli military began its intensified ground and air campaign there two weeks ago, but apparently several hundred thousand Palestinians remain. The UN’s World Food Program said it was also running out of food for central Gaza, where hundreds of thousands of people sought shelter in a chaotic exodus after fleeing Rafah, setting up new tent camps or crowding into areas already devastated by previous Israeli offensives.
“Humanitarian operations in Gaza are near collapse,” said Abeer Etefa, a WFP spokesperson. If food and other supplies don’t resume entering Gaza “in massive quantities, famine-like conditions will spread,” she said.
The warning came as Israel seeks to contain the international fallout from a request at the world’s top war crimes court for arrest warrants targeting both Israeli and Hamas leaders. The move garnered support from three European countries, including Israel’s key ally France.
The chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court cited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for alleged “use of starvation as a method of warfare,” a charge they and other Israeli officials angrily deny. The prosecutor accused three Hamas leaders of war crimes over killings of civilians in the group’s Oct. 7 attack.
The UN says some 1.1 million people in Gaza — nearly half the population — face catastrophic levels of hunger and that the territory is on the brink of famine. The humanitarian crisis deepened after Israeli forces pushed into Rafah on May 6, vowing to root out Hamas fighters. Tanks and troops seized the Rafah crossing into Egypt, closing it ever since. After May 10, only about three dozen trucks made it into Gaza via the nearby Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel because fighting makes it dangerous for aid workers to reach it, the UN says.
Israel insists it puts no restriction on the number of trucks entering Gaza. COGAT, the Israeli military office in charge of coordinating aid, said 450 trucks entered Tuesday from its side to Kerem Shalom and a small crossing in northern Gaza. It said more than 650 trucks are waiting on the Gaza side of Kerem Shalom to be retrieved, blaming “lack of logistical capabilities and manpower gaps” among aid groups.
For months, the UN has warned that an Israeli assault on Rafah could wreck the effort to get food, medicine and other supplies to Palestinians across Gaza. Throughout the war, Rafah has been filled with scenes of hungry children holding out pots and plastic containers at makeshift soup kitchens, with many families reduced to eating only one meal a day. The city’s population had swelled at one point to some 1.3 million people, most of whom fled fighting elsewhere.
Around 810,000 people have streamed out of Rafah, although Israel says its operations in Rafah are not the full-scale invasion of the city it had planned. The US says Israel never presented “credible” plan for evacuating the population or keeping it safe.
The main agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, announced the suspension of distribution in Rafah in a post on X, without elaborating beyond citing the lack of supplies. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the UNRWA distribution center and the WFP’s warehouses in Rafah were “inaccessible due to ongoing military operations.”
Asked about the ramifications of suspending aid, Dujarric said simply: “People don’t eat.”
Etefa said the WFP had also stopped distribution in Rafah after exhausting its stocks. It is still passing out hot meals and “limited distributions” of reduced food packages in central Gaza, but “food parcel stocks will run out within days,” she said.
The US depicted the floating aid pier as a potential route for accelerated deliveries. The first 10 trucks rolled off a ship onto the pier on Friday and were taken to a WFP warehouse. But a second shipment of 11 trucks on Saturday was met by Palestinian crowds who took supplies, and only five trucks made it to the warehouse, Etefa said.
No further deliveries came from the pier on Sunday or Monday, she said.
“The responsibility of ensuring aid reaches those in need does not end at the crossings and other points of entry into Gaza — it extends throughout Gaza itself,” she said.
At the same time, battles have escalated in northern Gaza as Israeli troops conduct operations against Hamas fighters, who the military says regrouped in areas already targeted in offensives months ago.
One of the main hospitals still operating in the north, Kamal Adwan, was forced to evacuate after it was “targeted” by Israeli troops, the Gaza Health Ministry said. Around 150 staff and dozens of patients fled the facility, including intensive care patients and infants in incubators “under fire from shelling,” it said. The Israeli military did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
The nearby Awda hospital has been surrounded by troops the past three days, and an artillery shell hit its fifth floor, the hospital administration said Tuesday. A day earlier, the international medical aid group Doctors Without Borders said Awda had run out of drinking water.
The war between began on Oct. 7, when Hamas-led militants crossed into Israel and killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took 250 hostage. ICC prosecutor Karim Khan accused Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh of crimes against humanity, including extermination, murder and sexual violence.
Israel responded to the Oct. 7 with an offensive that has laid waste to Gaza and killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between noncombatants and fighters in its count.
Monday’s call by Khan for arrest warrants deepens Israel’s global isolation at a time when it is facing growing criticism from even its closest allies over the war. France, Belgium, and Slovenia each said they backed Khan’ decision.
Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz headed to France on Tuesday in response, urging it to “declare loud and clear” that the request for warrants against Netanyahu and Gallant “is unacceptable to you and to the French government.”
His meetings there could set the tone for how countries navigate the warrants — if they are eventually issued — and whether they could pose a threat to Israeli leaders. A panel of three ICC judges will decide whether to issue the arrest warrants and allow a case to proceed. The judges typically take two months to make such decisions.
Israel still has the support of its top ally, the United States, as well as other Western countries that spoke out against the decision. But if the warrants are issued, they could complicate international travel for Netanyahu and his defense minister, even if they do not face any immediate risk of prosecution because Israel itself is not a member of the court.
 

 


Trump foreign policy adviser urges sanctions on ICC officials after meeting Netanyahu

Updated 22 May 2024
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Trump foreign policy adviser urges sanctions on ICC officials after meeting Netanyahu

The US should slap sanctions on International Criminal Court officials who seek an arrest warrant for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a top foreign policy adviser to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said on Tuesday after meeting the Israeli leader.
Robert O’Brien, who served as Trump’s fourth and final national security adviser, made the comments in a Jerusalem interview with Reuters after meeting Netanyahu and other Israeli officials during a multi-day visit to the US ally.
O’Brien, who said Trump would be briefed on the results of the trip, discussed what he called the ICC’s “irrational decision” to issue a warrant for Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, along with three Palestinian Hamas leaders, in his meetings with the Israeli officials.
“We can sanction the bank accounts, the travel. We can put visa restrictions on these corrupt prosecutors and judges. We can show some real mettle here,” O’Brien told Reuters from Jerusalem.
O’Brien was joined by former US Ambassador to the UAE John Rakolta and former Ambassador to Switzerland Ed McMullen.
The trip, first reported by Reuters, was a rare case of Trump allies traveling abroad as part of an organized delegation to meet foreign officials. It took place amid strains between Israel and the Biden administration about the US Middle East ally’s conduct of the war in Gaza.
In addition to Netanyahu, the delegation met in recent days with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, war cabinet minister Benny Gantz, and Gallant, O’Brien said. Their itinerary did not include Palestinian leaders.
O’Brien said rescuing all remaining hostages held by Hamas and capturing Yahya Sinwar, the mastermind of the Oct. 7 attack on Israel that prompted Israel’s Gaza offensive, would be key to declaring victory over the militant group.
“This is something I did share with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and President Herzog and Benny Gantz from the war cabinet: We’ve got to move quickly,” O’Brien told Reuters. “Israel has to defeat Hamas in Rafah.”
The group said they did not go to Israel at Trump’s behest.
But O’Brien, Rakolta and McMullen all speak regularly to Trump who, despite facing four criminal trials, is ahead of his Nov. 5 presidential election rival, Democratic President Joe Biden, in opinion polls in most battleground states.
In addition to meeting political leaders, members of the delegation traveled to areas of Israel that were targeted in the Hamas attack in October, including the site of the Nova Music Festival and the Nir Oz kibbutz, both near Gaza.
More than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s seven-month-old assault on the Gaza Strip, according to health officials in the Hamas-ruled enclave. The war began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and abducting 253 others, according to Israeli tallies. Israel says that more than 100 hostages are still being held in Gaza, including several Americans.
On Monday, the ICC’s prosecutor in The Hague, Karim Khan, requested the warrants for Netanyahu, Gallant and three Palestinian leaders, alleging they had committed war crimes.
In the Reuters interview, O’Brien said he was throwing his support behind Republican-led legislation in Congress that would sanction ICC employees that investigate officials in the US or in allied countries that do not recognize the court, like Israel.
It was unclear how much bipartisan support that bill could garner, though both Democratic and Republican officials have been sharply critical of the ICC.
In 2020, Trump issued an executive order to restrict travel and freeze assets of court staff involved in investigating US conduct in Afghanistan, sanctions which were reversed in the opening months of the Biden administration.
O’Brien’s comments suggest Trump’s advisers would be willing to reimpose and expand sanctions should the former president return to the White House. While the US has at times engaged with the ICC in a limited fashion, it has never been a member of the court, and many US political leaders argue the ICC’s international jurisdiction threatens national sovereignty.
Throughout the interview, O’Brien, Rakolta and McMullen rejected assessments by many US, Palestinian and international officials who say Israel is not doing enough to protect civilian life.
“The Israelis are conducting themselves in a really fine tradition of a modern, humanitarian military, and I think that’s the biggest takeaway from the meetings we’ve had in my view,” O’Brien said.
The Biden administration has at times dissented from that view, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying earlier in May that Israel lacked a credible plan to protect civilians in Rafah.
While the Trump administration backed a two-state solution to Middle East conflict, O’Brien said the conflict in Gaza and Palestinians’ hostile attitude toward Israel makes discussing it a moot point at the moment.
The US government has long held that the pathway to a lasting peace runs through the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. Since Oct. 7, however, Trump has indicated in interviews and on the campaign trail that he is rethinking his stance.


Palestinian ministry says Israel troops kill 8 in West Bank raid

Updated 22 May 2024
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Palestinian ministry says Israel troops kill 8 in West Bank raid

  • Israel has killed at least 35,647 people in Gaza, most of them civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry

JENIN, Palestinian Territories: Palestinian health officials said eight Palestinians were killed Tuesday in an Israeli raid on the West Bank city of Jenin, where an AFP correspondent reported masked gunmen exchanged fire with Israeli forces.
Smoke billowed over the refugee camp adjacent to the city after a series of explosions inside, while at least five gunmen clashed with troops in a nearby downtown neighborhood, the correspondent reported.
The Palestinian health ministry in Ramallah said Israeli troops had killed eight people — raising an earlier toll of seven — and wounded nearly 20 others during the raid, which began in the morning in Jenin city.
An AFP journalist saw four bodies at Jenin’s Khalil Suleiman hospital morgue.
The Israeli military said it had launched a “counterterrorism operation” in the city, later adding that “exchanges of fire are underway between the security forces and the armed terrorists.”
The official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that among those killed was a surgeon, Usaeed Jabareen, from the Jenin government hospital.
A school teacher and a student were also among the dead, Wafa reported, quoting hospital director Wissam Bakr.
Amer Manasra, a 25-year-old freelance journalist, told AFP he had been wounded by Israeli forces during the raid.
“I was hit in the back of my leg by a stray bullet fired by Israeli forces,” he said from a hospital bed, adding the incident had taken place near the entrance to the camp.
The Israeli army said it had raided the house of Ahmed Barakat, who was behind an attack on an Israeli civilian last year.
Meir Tamari, 32, was killed in May 2023 at the entrance to a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, medics and military officials said at the time.
Following the raid, all schools in Jenin and the camp were evacuated, Wafa said.
In the afternoon, the streets near the camp were deserted, except for Israeli bulldozers moving debris.
The road between the hospital and the camp had been stripped of its asphalt by Israeli troops who said they were looking for concealed bombs.
Drones buzzed overhead and sporadic gunfire rang out.

Crowds of mourners including schoolchildren gathered for the funeral of teacher Allam Jaradat.
Jaradat’s body, wrapped in the green flag of militant group Hamas, was kept at a mosque where mourners offered prayers.
“The new massacre in Jenin... is conclusive evidence of the criminal mentality that rules the occupying state and its ideological belief in killing our people,” Hamas said in a statement.
The office of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas condemned Tuesday’s raid in a statement on Wafa, saying Israel was “killing innocent people, doctors, and destroying the infrastructure of Palestinian hospitals, cities and villages.”
Jenin has long been a stronghold of Palestinian militant groups and the Israeli army routinely carries out raids into the city and adjacent camp.
The West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967, has seen a surge in violence for more than a year, but particularly since the Israel-Hamas war erupted on October 7.
At least 513 Palestinians have been killed in the territory by Israeli troops or settlers since the Gaza war broke out, according to Palestinian officials.
Attacks by Palestinians have killed at least 12 Israelis in the West Bank over the same period, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.
The Gaza Strip has been gripped by more than seven months of war since Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 35,647 people in Gaza, most of them civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.