Millions in Sudan ‘one step away from famine’ amid year-long conflict, UN humanitarian official says

People queue to refill donkey-drawn water tanks during a water crisis in Port Sudan in the Red Sea State of war-torn Sudan on Apr. 9, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 12 April 2024
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Millions in Sudan ‘one step away from famine’ amid year-long conflict, UN humanitarian official says

  • Time running out to avoid catastrophe, with more than $4bn needed in emergency funding, aid officials warn
  • More than 18m people face food insecurity as ‘forgotten conflict’ plunges country into crisis

LONDON: At least 5 million people in Sudan are “one step away from famine,” the head of office at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Sudan said on Friday.

Justin Brady told a media briefing that an added 18 million people across the country were facing acute food insecurity amid the ongoing battle between the Sudanese Armed Forces and units from the Rapid Support Forces.

Thousands have been killed and a humanitarian crisis has unfolded since the conflict erupted 12 months ago on Monday.

More than 8.5 million people have fled their homes, with nearly 1.8 million escaping across the country’s borders.

Brady called on both the SAF and RSF to protect civilians and allow desperately needed humanitarian aid into the country, adding he was “particularly worried” about the situation in the Darfur region.

Michael Dunford, regional director for East Africa at the World Food Programme, said there was a “very real risk” of the situation in Sudan becoming the “largest hunger crisis anywhere in the world.”

He added that the emergency could also spill into neighboring countries, such as Chad and South Sudan, unless there was an immediate end to the fighting.

France is hosting a pledging conference in Paris on Monday to help Sudan and its neighbors cope with the fallout from the civil war.

The UN has said $4.1 billion is needed to meet the humanitarian needs, and both Brady and Dunford said it was “essential” that countries donated the required funds. They criticized the lack of access for international journalists to cover events in Sudan, which they said had led it to becoming a “forgotten conflict.”

Also on Friday, World Health Organization spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva that time was running out to avoid a catastrophe in Sudan.

He warned of Sudan’s collapsing health system, with acute shortages of staff, medicines, vaccines, equipment and supplies, and said 70 to 80 percent of Sudanese hospitals and clinics were not functioning due to the conflict.

“Without a stop to the fighting and unhindered access for the delivery of humanitarian aid, Sudan’s crisis will dramatically worsen in the months to come and could impact the whole region” in terms of more refugees, the spread of disease and food insecurity.

“We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg,” he added.

Thair Shraideh, the UN Development Pogramme’s resident representative in Sudan, said the country was plunging into “an accelerating food security crisis.”

He continued: “The study warns that a famine in Sudan is expected in 2024, particularly in the states of Khartoum, Al-Jazira, and in the Darfur and Kordofan regions.”

The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, on Thursday pledged US funding for Sudan, and also called on donor countries to dig deep at the Paris event on Monday as she bemoaned the severe lack of funding so far.

“To date, just 5 percent of the UN’s humanitarian appeal for Sudan has been met. Already, the WFP has had to cut assistance to over 7 million people in Chad and South Sudan, and that includes 1.2 million refugees, people who were already struggling to feed themselves and their families,” she said.

“This is a matter of life and death. Experts warn that the coming weeks and months, over 200,000 more children could die of starvation. The US, for our part, plans on significantly increasing our funding in the days to come,” she added.

Thomas-Greenfield also agreed that Sudan and its crisis was being forgotten.

“Just five years after a revolution that offered a glimpse at a free, peaceful, democratic Sudan, people are losing hope. Aid workers have begun calling this conflict the forgotten war,” she said.

“Sudanese children are asking why the world has forgotten them. And let’s be clear: I don’t believe the dearth of attention is because people are ignorant or unfeeling, in fact, I believe it’s the opposite. I believe it’s because there are so many terrible crises, so much violence and pain, that people don’t quite know which way to turn.”


Turkiye to send navy to Somalia after agreeing oil and gas search

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan during a visit to Belgrade, Serbia September 7, 2022. (REUTERS)
Updated 20 July 2024
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Turkiye to send navy to Somalia after agreeing oil and gas search

  • Turkiye has become a close ally of the Somali government in recent years. Ankara has built schools, hospitals and infrastructure and provided scholarships for Somalis to study in Turkiye

ANKARA: Turkiye is set to send navy support to Somali waters after the two countries agreed Ankara will send an exploration vessel off the coast of Somalia to prospect for oil and gas.
President Tayyip Erdogan submitted a motion to the Turkish parliament late on Friday, seeking authorization for the deployment of Turkish military to Somalia including the country’s territorial waters, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
The move came a day after the Turkish energy ministry announced that Turkiye will send an exploration vessel off the coast of Somalia later this year to search for oil and gas as part of a hydrocarbon cooperation deal between two countries.
Earlier this year, Turkiye and Somalia signed a defense and economic cooperation agreement during Somali defense minister’s visit to Ankara.
Turkiye has become a close ally of the Somali government in recent years. Ankara has built schools, hospitals and infrastructure and provided scholarships for Somalis to study in Turkiye.
In 2017, Turkiye opened its biggest overseas military base in Mogadishu. Turkiye also provides training to Somali military and police.

 


Algeria places pro-democracy activists in pre-trial detention: lawyer

Updated 20 July 2024
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Algeria places pro-democracy activists in pre-trial detention: lawyer

  • UN Special Rapporteur Clement Voule called on Algeria to “address the climate of fear caused by a string of criminal charges”

ALGIERS: Eight Algerian activists from pro-democracy protests that toppled the country’s last president have been placed in pre-trial detention while six others were released under judicial supervision, one of their lawyers said Friday.
The activists were arrested between July 8 and 15 in Bejaia, some 220 kilometers (136 miles) east of the capital Algiers.
Mira Mokhnache, a university professor and human rights defender, along with seven other activists were placed in pre-trial detention on Thursday by an investigating judge at the Sidi M’Hamed court in downtown Algiers, according to lawyer Fetta Sadat.
The protest movement, known as Hirak, broke out in February 2019 and forced longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down two months later.
The movement continued to press for deep reforms, but it waned during the Covid pandemic.
The National Committee for the Release of Detainees (CNLD) said that among the eight convicted was a man who was released from prison last month after three years of imprisonment over ties to the pro-democracy protests.
A 16-year-old whistleblower who documented Algerian political prisons on his Facebook page was among those released under judicial supervision, according to Sadat.
Local media said the group was being prosecuted under a 2021 law amendment relating to “terrorism.”
Last year, a United Nations expert called for the repeal of the article that “broadened the definition of terrorism,” and urged Algerian authorities to pardon people convicted or detained over their involvement in the pro-democracy protests.
UN Special Rapporteur Clement Voule called on Algeria to “address the climate of fear caused by a string of criminal charges.”
Dozens of people are still detained in Algeria over links to Hirak or human rights activism, according to the National Committee for the Release of Detainees.
In February, rights watchdog Amnesty International said that five years after the protests erupted, Algerian authorities had “escalated their repression of peaceful dissent.”
“It is a tragedy that five years after brave Algerians took to the streets in their masses to demand political change and reforms, the authorities have continued to wage a chilling campaign of repression,” said Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director, Heba Morayef.
The North African country is readying for presidential elections set to take place on September 7 as the incumbent President Abdelmadjid Tebboune remains its frontrunner.
 

 


Blast hits Iraq former paramilitaries depot: officials

Updated 20 July 2024
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Blast hits Iraq former paramilitaries depot: officials

  • A security source confirmed the blast, adding that it “occurred in a warehouse storing equipment that belongs to Hashed Al-Shaabi”

BAGHDAD: An explosion ripped through “logistics” warehouses belonging to former pro-Iran paramilitaries south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Thursday, officials said.
“At 7:00 p.m. (1600 GMT)... an explosion occurred in logistics warehouses belonging to the 42 Brigade... in the Yusufiyah area, south of Baghdad,” said the Hashed Al-Shaabi — an alliance of pro-Iranian former paramilitary groups now integrated into the regular army.
The cause of the blast was not immediately known, and the Hashed said it assigned a committee to investigate.
Firefighters were battling the blaze, it added in a statement.
A security source confirmed the blast, adding that it “occurred in a warehouse storing equipment that belongs to Hashed Al-Shaabi.”
A Hashed official said he did not rule out the possibility of an “air strike.”
In April, one person was killed and eight wounded in a blast at a military base housing Hashed groups in Babylon province, south of Baghdad.
An investigation found the blast was caused by munitions stored on-site, not by an air strike.
The Hashed Al-Shaabi is an integral part of the Iraqi security apparatus under the authority of the prime minister.
It includes some pro-Iran groups which have carried out dozens of attacks against US forces in Iraq and neighboring Syria.
The latest blast comes after two drones were launched on Tuesday against an Iraqi base used by US-led troops without causing any damage.
 

 


Israel threatens reprisals for deadly Yemen rebel drone strike

Updated 20 July 2024
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Israel threatens reprisals for deadly Yemen rebel drone strike

  • Israel has killed at least 38,848 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to data from the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory, where fighting raged on Friday

TEL AVIV: Israel threatened reprisals Friday after a drone claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels penetrated its vaunted air defenses and killed a civilian in a Tel Aviv apartment building near a US embassy annexe.
The attack drew condemnation from UN chief Antonio Guterres and an appeal for “maximum restraint” to avoid “further escalation in the region.”
The pre-dawn strike came hours before Israel suffered another blow, a ruling by the UN’s top court that its occupation of the Palestinian territories was “illegal” and needed to end as soon as possible.
The advisory opinion of The Hague-based International Court of Justice is not binding, but it comes amid mounting international condemnation of Israel’s handling of its war on Hamas in Gaza.
The office of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas hailed the court’s decision as “a victory for justice.” Hamas said it puts “the international system before the imperative of immediate action to end the occupation.”
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has overseen a major expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, insisted: “The Jewish people are not occupiers in their own land.”
The Houthis are one of a number of Iran-backed armed groups around the Middle East that have claimed drone and missile attacks on Israel in retaliation for the Gaza war.
The group, which controls swathes of Yemen, including much of its Red Sea coast, has previously claimed attacks on Israeli cities including Ashdod, Haifa and Eilat, but Friday’s strike appears to be the first to breach Israel’s sophisticated air defenses.
The Houthis fired at Tel Aviv a “new drone called ‘Yafa’, which is capable of bypassing the enemy’s interception systems,” their spokesman Yahya Saree said.
An Israeli military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a “very big drone that can travel long distances” was used in the 3:12 am (0012 GMT) attack.
He said the drone was detected but due to “human error” the alarm was not raised in time, and it slammed into an apartment building.
Military spokesman Daniel Hagari said Israel believed the drone used was Iranian-made and upgraded so it could reach Tel Aviv from Yemen — at least 1,800 kilometers (1,100 miles) away.
Medical services said one civilian was killed and four people suffered “relatively minor” injuries.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant vowed revenge.
“The security system will settle the score with all who try to harm the state of Israel, or sends terrorism against it, in a decisive and surprising manner,” he said in comments posted on social media platform X.

In grainy security camera footage, the buzz of what appeared to be the drone was followed by an explosion that shook the building and set off car alarms.
The blast occurred about 100 meters (yards) from a US embassy annexe, said an AFP journalist who saw broken windows along the street lined with apartment blocks.
“It woke me up because the vibration of the sound was like a 747 (jet) coming in,” said Kenneth Davis, an Israeli who was staying in a hotel opposite the building which was hit.
“And then the explosion... everything blew out in the room,” he told AFPTV.
Since November, the Houthis have also carried out dozens of drone and missile attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden that they claim is Israeli-linked.
The United States and Britain launched a campaign of air strikes in January to deter the attacks on shipping.
The Gaza war was triggered by Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel which resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
The militants also seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom are still in Gaza, including 42 the Israeli military says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory campaign has killed at least 38,848 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to data from the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory, where fighting raged on Friday.

Residents said clashes were heard between Palestinian fighters and the Israeli army, with explosions and shelling in the Tal Al-Hawa district of Gaza City.
The war has destroyed much of Gaza’s housing and other infrastructure, leaving virtually the entire population displaced and short of food and drinking water.
Many are living in unsanitary conditions. Health authorities in Gaza and Israel said on Thursday that poliovirus had been detected in Gaza sewage samples.
The World Health Organization said on Friday that no cases of the highly infectious disease had been discovered in Gaza so far.
 

 


Houthis damage cargo ship in Gulf of Aden as it steps up attacks

Updated 20 July 2024
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Houthis damage cargo ship in Gulf of Aden as it steps up attacks

  • Houthis in recent weeks have become more adept at inflicting damage on their targets

CAIRO: Yemen’s Houthi militants hit and damaged a Singapore-flagged container ship with two missiles on Friday as they escalate attacks on global shipping over Israel’s war in Gaza.
The overnight assault on the Lobivia cargo ship came as the Iran-aligned Houthis also claimed responsibility for a fiery, long-range aerial drone strike in the center of Tel Aviv that killed one man and wounded four others.
The Houthis in recent weeks have become more adept at inflictingdamage on their targets. In June, the militants struck the Greek-owned Tutor coal carrier with missiles and an explosive-laden remote-controlled boat, causing it to sink.
Tutor was the second ship sunk in the Houthi campaign against commercial shipping, which since November has killed at least three sailors and upended global trade by forcing ship owners to avoid the Suez Canal trade shortcut.
“Their capacity, their access to more sophisticated weapons, has only increased over the course of this conflict,” said Gerald Feierstein, director of the Arabian Peninsula Affairs Program at the Middle East Institute in Washington.
Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree in a television speech on Friday said the group launched the Lobivia strikes, adding that the assault also included drones. The manager of Lobivia did not immediately comment.
Lobivia was in the Gulf of Aden when the missiles struck two areas on its port side, the Joint Maritime Information Center (JMIC) said in an incident report.
The ship was located 83 nautical miles southeast of Yemen’s port city of Aden during the attack. All crew are reported safe and the ship was returning to its last port of call, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said.
“The ship was transiting northeast along the Gulf of Aden when a merchant vessel in the vicinity observed ‘light and blast’ where the ship was located,” British security firm Ambrey said.
The ship appeared to perform evasive maneuvers immediately and switch off her automatic identification system approximately an hour later, Ambrey said.
On Tuesday, the Houthis hit the Liberia-flagged oil tanker Chios Lion with a drone boat, causing damage to the port side that left an oily trail that experts said appeared to be fuel.
Britain and the US have conducted retaliatory strikes since February, shooting down drones and bombing attack sites in Yemen.
That has come at a significant cost, said Feierstein, who was the US Ambassador to the Republic of Yemen from 2010 to 2013 under President Barack Obama.
“We’re basically spending a million dollars every time we shoot down a Radio Shack drone. That’s wearing on the Navy and wearing on our supplies,” he said.