Shoukry reiterates Egypt’s objection to Rafah ground offensive in phone call with British FM

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (R) and his British counterpart David Cameron, shown in this file photo attending a press conference in Cairo, discussed on Thursday necessary action to end the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. (AFP/File)
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Updated 28 March 2024
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Shoukry reiterates Egypt’s objection to Rafah ground offensive in phone call with British FM

  • Shoukry emphasized to Cameron that Egypt rejects any ground military operation in the Palestinian city of Rafah
  • He warned of its grave humanitarian repercussions and its potential security impacts on the region’s stability

CAIRO: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron discussed the situation in the Gaza Strip in a phone call.

Shoukry received Cameron’s call within the framework of consultation and coordination about the situation in the Gaza Strip and the necessary action to end the humanitarian crisis there. 

The two sides exchanged assessments on the dire humanitarian and security conditions in the Gaza Strip and the regional and international action needed to achieve a ceasefire, swap detainees and deliver humanitarian aid in full to the Strip.

They stressed the necessity of ensuring the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2728 and building on it to reach a full and sustainable ceasefire.

The discussion addressed means of coordination between international and regional parties to halt the war in the Gaza Strip. 

Shoukry affirmed that Egypt was continuing its efforts at all levels to facilitate reaching an agreement to enforce the truce in Gaza, leading to a permanent ceasefire in the Strip for the preservation of the lives of Palestinian civilians. 

Shoukry assured his British counterpart of Egypt’s rejection of any ground military operation in the Palestinian city of Rafah, warning of its grave humanitarian repercussions and its potential security impacts on the region’s stability.

He also stressed the necessity of putting an end to Israeli policies and practices attempting to create an uninhabitable situation in the Gaza Strip, including indiscriminate targeting, starvation and collective punishment against Palestinian civilians.

Shoukry reiterated the rejection of the forced displacement of Palestinians outside their territories and any attempts to liquidate the Palestinian cause.

Shoukry and Cameron agreed to continue consultations during the coming period on the path toward curbing the crisis in the Gaza Strip and containing its repercussions.


UN chief warns: Lebanon cannot become another Gaza

Updated 6 sec ago
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UN chief warns: Lebanon cannot become another Gaza

“Let’s be clear: The people of the region and the people of the world cannot afford Lebanon to become another Gaza,” Guterres said
Iran’s mission to the United Nations said on Friday that Hezbollah has the capability to defend itself and Lebanon against Israel

UNITED NATIONS: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday he is profoundly concerned by escalating tensions between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah and that UN peacekeepers are working to calm the situation and prevent miscalculation.
“One rash move — one miscalculation — could trigger a catastrophe that goes far beyond the border, and frankly, beyond imagination,” he told reporters. “Let’s be clear: The people of the region and the people of the world cannot afford Lebanon to become another Gaza.”
Iran-backed Hezbollah has been firing rockets at Israel in solidarity with its Palestinian ally Hamas since the Gaza war erupted in October, forcing tens of thousands to flee homes in Israel, where political pressure is building for tougher action.
Tens of thousands of Lebanese have also fled their homes following Israeli strikes in south Lebanon.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations said on Friday that Hezbollah has the capability to defend itself and Lebanon against Israel, warning that “perhaps the time for the self-annihilation of this illegitimate regime has come.”
“Any imprudent decision by the occupying Israeli regime to save itself could plunge the region into a new war,” Iran’s UN mission posted on X.
A UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL, as well as unarmed technical observers known as UNTSO, have long been stationed in southern Lebanon to monitor hostilities along the demarcation line between Lebanon and Israel, known as the Blue Line.
“UN peacekeepers are on the ground working to de-escalate tensions and help prevent miscalculation,” Guterres said.
“The world must say loudly and clearly: immediate de-escalation is not only possible – it is essential,” he said. “There is no military solution.”

Iraqi Kurds mourn loved ones lost on Mediterranean migrant route

Updated 1 min 2 sec ago
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Iraqi Kurds mourn loved ones lost on Mediterranean migrant route

  • In unstable Iraq, Kurdish region has always presented image of relative prosperity and stability
  • But autonomous region, like rest of the resource-rich country, also suffers from endemic corruption

IRBIL: Waiting at home in Iraqi Kurdistan, Khadija Hussein holds faint hope of hearing word of further survivors from the shipwrecked vessel that carried 11 of her family members from neighboring Turkiye.
Khadija’s nephew Rebwar, his sister-in-law Mojdeh and both their families were aboard a sailing boat that sank overnight between Sunday and Monday off the Italian coast.
Twelve people were plucked from the water after the boat sank around 120 nautical miles off Calabria, one of whom died after disembarking. More than 60 remain unaccounted for after six bodies were retrieved on Wednesday from the sea by the Italian coast guard.
“What’s clear is that Mojdeh survived. We spoke to her on the phone,” the 54-year-old housewife told AFP.
Mojdeh’s son and another child from the family are also known to have survived — the eight other relatives of Khadija who were onboard are still unaccounted for.
“We have no further details,” Khadija said, a black veil draped over her hair.
On a moldering wall at the entrance to the family home in Irbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, a poster announces a vigil organized on Wednesday to receive condolences.
Two family photos on display showed the victims, parents and children smiling broadly and dressed in their best clothes. Mojdeh is with her husband Abdel Qader, a cab driver. Her sister Hiro is pictured with her husband Rebwar, a blacksmith.
The two couples had almost changed their minds and decided not to depart.
“They had informed the parents, and everyone was relieved,” Khadija explained, but after an insistent intervention by a people smuggler, the group had a change of heart.
They were supposed to make contact with the family in Irbil when they arrived in Europe to start their new life.
“Hours went by, and we heard nothing more,” Khadija said.
The smuggler, meanwhile, had switched off their phone
News of deaths like these on Europe’s migrant routes has become all too common in the autonomous Kurdish region. The area has been touched by other tragedies, whether on the English Channel or in the frozen forests of Belarus.
In the Irbil schoolyard requisitioned for the vigil, dozens of women huddle together, seated under a tent, all dressed in black, their features drawn, in a silence broken by the cries of children.
At the mosque, the men of the family welcomed dozens of visitors who had come to pay their respects in a reception room, listening to verses from the Qur'an.
Kamal Hamad, Rebwar’s father, explained that he spoke to his son on Wednesday, 12 June, when he was already on the boat. His grief is compounded by incomprehension.
“They knew full well that traveling by sea in this way meant certain death,” the 60-year-old said. “Why leave? In our country it’s better than elsewhere.”
In an unstable Iraq, the Kurdish region has always presented an image of relative prosperity and stability. Property developments, highways, universities and private schools are all under construction.
But the autonomous region, like the rest of the resource-rich country, also suffers from endemic corruption, the cronyism of the ruling clans and an economic stasis that has left its young people disillusioned.
A Gallup poll from 2022 showed two out of every three Kurdish residents thought it would be difficult to find a job.
According to the International Organization for Migration, some 3,155 migrants died or disappeared in the Mediterranean last year.
The president of the Association of Migrants Returned from Europe, Bakr Ali, told AFP that the sailing boat was carrying a “majority of Kurds from Iraq and Iran.”
“There were also a number of Afghans,” he said, adding that the boat had set sail from Bodrum in Turkiye.
Bakhtiar Qader, Rebwar’s cousin, said some 30 people from autonomous Kurdistan were among those traveling on the vessel.
He also doesn’t understand the stubbornness of the two couples. Especially as they “had their own house, car, children and jobs.”
“I, like their parents and friends, tried to talk them out of it,” he said.
“But they wouldn’t listen,” the 40-year-old, wearing a black shirt and a salt-and-pepper beard explained.
“They didn’t know that death was waiting for them.”


German FM to travel to Middle East next week

Updated 21 June 2024
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German FM to travel to Middle East next week

  • On Tuesday, she will hold talks with Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Mustafa in Ramallah
  • Baerbock will travel to Lebanon for talks with officials in Beirut, including the migration minister

BERLIN: German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock will visit the Middle East next week, Berlin said Friday, as the Gaza war grinds on and fears grow of a wider regional conflict.
Baerbock will travel to Israel Monday immediately after a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Luxembourg, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said.
On arrival in Israel, Baerbock — who has visited the region several times since the start of the Israel-Hamas war — will give a speech at the Herzliya Security Conference.
On Tuesday, she will hold talks with Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Mustafa in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank.
Baerbock will also meet with the Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz in Jerusalem.
Subsequently, Baerbock will travel to Lebanon for talks with officials in Beirut, including the migration minister.
Baerbock’s discussions with officials would focus on “the war in Gaza and the continuing catastrophic humanitarian situation,” as well as “the question of what a future could look like that allows Israelis and Palestinians to live together in safety,” the ministry spokeswoman said.
“In the Palestinian territories, the situation in the West Bank will also be a focus, as will the reform efforts of the Palestinian Authority,” the spokeswoman said.
“The particularly tense and dangerous situation on the border between Israel and Lebanon,” would also be discussed on the trip.
More than eight months of war, sparked by Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, have led to dire humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian territory and repeated UN warnings of famine.
The October Hamas attack on Israel resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
The militants also seized hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza although the army says 41 are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive in Gaza has killed at least 37,431 people, also mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory.


Darfur sees an increase in much needed food aid, but it’s still not enough to avert famine, UN says

Updated 21 June 2024
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Darfur sees an increase in much needed food aid, but it’s still not enough to avert famine, UN says

  • WFP said in an update that five convoys carrying 5,000 tons of food aid have crossed from neighboring Chad into Darfur since the beginning of 2024
  • Famine looms in parts of Sudan, which has been engulfed by violence since April of last year

CAIRO: Families in Sudan’s embattled western Darfur region have finally received an emergency increase in food aid that is much needed to help avert looming famine, the UN food agency said Thursday.
The World Food Program said in an update that five convoys carrying 5,000 tons of food aid have crossed from neighboring Chad into Darfur since the beginning of 2024.
Some aid trucks entered the region on June 10 and completed deliveries in southern Darfur on Thursday, Leni Kinzli, the head of communications at WFP’s Sudan office, told The Associated Press. Distribution was continuing in central and western Darfur.
“The food distribution is an emergency scale-up to avert famine and to get to those people in the highest level of food insecurity to prevent widespread starvation,” Kinzli said. “But, we need to continue to do more and expand access and we’re working on possibly opening new corridors from South Sudan and Egypt and also expanding crossline access from Port Sudan into the Darfur region.”
Famine looms in parts of Sudan, which has been engulfed by violence since April of last year. That’s when tensions between leaders of the Sudanese military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces erupted into intense fighting and spread across the country, including to Darfur.
The latest WFP distribution was part of two aid convoys that made their way to Sudan over the past weeks, carrying enough assistance for more than 245,000 people. The first convoy crossed on May 23 and delivered aid for 117,000 people in South and Central Darfur states.
“We aren’t just delivering for immediate needs but ensuring people have enough to get through the coming months,” said Kinzli. “Especially in those areas that we anticipate will become harder to reach when the road conditions further deteriorate in the rains in the coming weeks.”
In May, the WFP said in a report that at least 1.7 million people are already experiencing emergency levels of hunger in Darfur, including in Al Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state that is besieged by RSF.
Some of the challenges in reaching communities in Darfur include securing access through negotiations, which Kinzli described as “complicated” because many of the checkpoints are controlled by different armed groups. She added that getting aid into places with intense fighting such as Al Fasher is extremely dangerous.
Some WFP aid trucks encountered mechanical issues in the most recent food aid delivery because of deteriorating road conditions. Still, three more WFP convoys carrying food and nutritious commodities are planned to enter Darfur in the coming weeks from Chad through the Tine crossing to help 675,000 people.
Carlos Perea-Milla, with the logistics team for Sudan at the international humanitarian organization Action Against Hunger, told the AP that Tine, which leads to North Darfur state, is the only authorized crossing point for UN agencies. The Adre crossing point, occasionally used by humanitarian organizations, provides access to RSF-controlled areas. The UN’s humanitarian agency is pushing for Adre to be used as the other official crossing point to Sudan.


One dead in Tunisia military helicopter crash: ministry

Updated 21 June 2024
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One dead in Tunisia military helicopter crash: ministry

  • The ministry did not specify the type of helicopter involved

TUNIS: A Tunisian military helicopter crashed Friday during exercises in Gafsa province, killing one crewman and injuring another, the defense ministry said.
“The accident occurred during a normal maneuver and the aircraft’s descent,” ministry spokesman Mohamed Zekri told AFP.
“The helicopter crew, which consisted of two personnel, was taken to the military hospital in Gafsa. One of them died and the other was in stable condition.”
The ministry did not specify the type of helicopter involved.
The Tunisian military has lost several aircraft on training or reconnaissance missions in recent years.
In June 2023, four personnel died when a helicopter crashed off the country’s northwest coast.
In October 2021, three were killed in another accident during a night exercise in the southern province of Gabes.