Sudan one of world’s ‘worst crises’ in decades: medical charity

War has raged for more than a year. (FILE/AFP)
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Updated 21 June 2024
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Sudan one of world’s ‘worst crises’ in decades: medical charity

  • War has raged for more than a year between the regular military under army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces led by his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo
  • Both sides have been accused of war crimes including deliberately targeting civilians, indiscriminate shelling of residential areas and blocking humanitarian aid

Port Sudan, Sudan: The ongoing civil war in Sudan has provoked one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises in decades, the international chief of the medical charity Doctors Without Borders said Thursday.
War has raged for more than a year between the regular military under army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces led by his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.
“Sudan is one of the worst crises the world has seen for decades... yet the humanitarian response is profoundly inadequate,” Christos Christou, international president of Doctors Without Borders (MSF), said on social media platform X.
“There are extreme levels of suffering across the country, and the needs are growing by the day,” he added.
The conflict, which began in April 2023 has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and displaced more than nine million people, according to the United Nations.
Both sides have been accused of war crimes including deliberately targeting civilians, indiscriminate shelling of residential areas and blocking humanitarian aid, despite warnings that millions are on the brink of starvation.
Rights groups and the United States have also accused the paramilitaries of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.


Paris ramps up security in preparation for the Olympics

Updated 6 min 40 sec ago
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Paris ramps up security in preparation for the Olympics

  • Squadrons of police are patrolling Paris streets and fighter jets and soldiers are ready to scramble. An imposing metal-fenced security cordon has been erected like an iron curtain on both sides of th
  • The city has repeatedly suffered bloody extremist attacks and international tensions are high because of the wars in Ukraine and Gaza

PARIS: A year ago, the head of the Paris Olympics boldly declared that France’s capital would be ” the safest place in the world ” when the Games open this Friday. Tony Estanguet’s confident forecast looks less far-fetched now with squadrons of police patrolling Paris’ streets, fighter jets and soldiers primed to scramble, and imposing metal-fence security barriers erected like an iron curtain on both sides of the River Seine that will star in the opening show.
France’s vast police and military operation is in large part because the July 26-Aug. 11 Games face unprecedented security challenges. The city has repeatedly suffered deadly extremist attacks and international tensions are high because of the wars in Ukraine and Gaza.
Rather than build an Olympic park with venues grouped together outside of the city center, like Rio de Janeiro in 2016 or London in 2012, Paris has chosen to host many of the events in the heart of the bustling capital of 2 million inhabitants, with others dotted around suburbs that house millions more. Putting temporary sports arenas in public spaces and the unprecedented choice to stage a river-borne opening ceremony stretching for kilometers (miles) along the Seine, makes safeguarding them more complex.
Olympic organizers also have cyberattack concerns, while rights campaigners and Games critics are worried about Paris’ use of AI-equipped surveillance technology and the broad scope and scale of Olympic security.
Paris, in short, has a lot riding on keeping 10,500 athletes and millions of visitors safe. Here’s how it aims to do it.
The security operation, by the numbers

A Games-time force of up to 45,000 police and gendarmes is also backed up by a 10,000-strong contingent of soldiers that has set up the largest military camp in Paris since World War II, from which soldiers should be able to reach any of the city’s Olympic venues within 30 minutes.
Armed military patrols aboard vehicles and on foot have become common in crowded places in France since gunmen and suicide bombers acting in the names of Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group repeatedly struck Paris in 2015. They don’t have police powers of arrest but can tackle attackers and restrain them until police arrive. For visitors from countries where armed street patrols aren’t the norm, the sight of soldiers with assault rifles might be jarring, just as it was initially for people in France.
“At the beginning, it was very strange for them to see us and they were always avoiding our presence, making a detour,” said Gen. Éric Chasboeuf, deputy commander of the counter-terror military force, called Sentinelle.
“Now, it’s in the landscape,” he said.
Rafale fighter jets, airspace-monitoring AWACS surveillance flights, Reaper surveillance drones, helicopters that can carry sharpshooters, and equipment to disable drones will police Paris skies, which will be closed during the opening ceremony by a no-fly zone extending for 150 kilometers (93 miles) around the capital. Cameras twinned with artificial intelligence software — authorized by a law that expands the state’s surveillance powers for the Games — will flag potential security risks, such as abandoned packages or crowd surges,
France is also getting help from more than 40 countries that, together, have sent at least 1,900 police reinforcements.
Trump assassination attempt highlights Olympic risks
Attacks by lone individuals are major concern, a risk driven home most recently to French officials by the assassination attempt against Donald Trump.
Some involved in the Olympic security operation were stunned that the gunman armed with an AR-style rifle got within range of the former US president.
“No one can guarantee that there won’t be mistakes. There, however, it was quite glaring,” said Gen. Philippe Pourqué, who oversaw the construction of a temporary camp in southeast Paris housing 4,500 soldiers from the Sentinelle force.
In France, in the last 13 months alone, men acting alone have carried out knife attacks that targeted tourists in Paris, and children in a park in an Alpine town, among others. A man who stabbed a teacher to death at his former high school in northern France in October had been under surveillance by French security services. 
With long and bitter experience of deadly extremist attacks, France has armed itself with a dense network of police units, intelligence services and investigators who specialize in fighting terrorism, and suspects in terrorism cases can be held longer for questioning.
Hundreds of thousands of background checks have scrutinized Olympic ticket-holders, workers and others involved in the Games and applicants for passes to enter Paris’ most tightly controlled security zone, along the Seine’s banks. The checks blocked more than 3,900 people from attending, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said. He said some were flagged for suspected Islamic radicalization, left- or right-wing political extremism, significant criminal records and other security concerns.
“We’re particularly attentive to Russian and Belorussian citizens,” Darmanin added, although he stopped short of linking exclusions to Russia’s war in Ukraine and Belarus’ role as an ally of Moscow.
Darmanin said 155 people considered to be “very dangerous” potential terror threats are also being kept away from the opening ceremony and the Games, with police searching their homes for weapons and computers in some cases.
He said intelligence services haven’t identified any proven terror plots against the Games “but we are being extremely attentive.”
Critics fear intrusive Olympic security will stay after the Games
Campaigners for digital rights worry that Olympic surveillance cameras and AI systems could erode privacy and other freedoms, and zero in on people without fixed homes who spend a lot of time in public spaces.
Saccage 2024, a group that has campaigned for months against the Paris Games, took aim at the scope of the Olympic security, describing it as a “repressive arsenal” in a statement to The Associated Press.
“And this is not a French exception, far from it, but a systematic occurrence in host countries,” it said. “Is it reasonable to offer one month of ‘festivities’ to the most well-off tourists at the cost of a long-term securitization legacy for all residents of the city and the country?“


Bangladesh extends curfew ahead of court hearing on controversial job quotas

Updated 25 min 6 sec ago
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Bangladesh extends curfew ahead of court hearing on controversial job quotas

  • Violent student protests in Bangladesh have killed at least 114 people as per news reports
  • Nationwide protests are biggest challenge to Sheikh Hasina’s Bangladesh government 

DHAKA: Bangladesh extended a curfew on Sunday to control violent student-led protests that have killed at least 114 people, as authorities braced for a Supreme Court hearing later in the day on government job quotas that sparked the anger.

Soldiers have been on patrol on the streets of capital Dhaka, the center of the demonstrations that spiralled into clashes between protesters and security forces.

Internet and text message services in Bangladesh have been suspended since Thursday, cutting the nation off as police cracked down on protesters who defied a ban on public gatherings.

A curfew ordered late on Friday has been extended to 3 p.m. (0900 GMT) on Sunday, until after the Supreme Court hearing, and will continue for an “uncertain time” following a two-hour break for people to gather supplies, local media reported.

Universities and colleges have also been closed since Wednesday.

Nationwide unrest broke out following student anger against quotas for government jobs that included reserving 30 percent for the families of those who fought for independence from Pakistan.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government had scrapped the quota system in 2018, but a court reinstated it last month.

The Supreme Court suspended the decision after a government appeal and will hear the case on Sunday after agreeing to bring forward a hearing scheduled for Aug. 7.

The demonstrations — the biggest since Hasina was re-elected for a fourth successive term this year — have also been fueled by high unemployment among young people, who make up nearly a fifth of the population.

The US State Department on Saturday raised its travel advisory for Bangladesh to level four, urging American citizens to not travel to the South Asian country.


Jordan’s army shoots down drone carrying drugs from Syria

Updated 46 min 40 sec ago
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Jordan’s army shoots down drone carrying drugs from Syria

AMMAN: Jordanian military authorities foiled an attempt to smuggle narcotics coming into the kingdom through a drone from Syria, state news agency PETRA reported.
A military official said Saturday that forces shot down the drone inside Jordanian territory.
“Border guard forces in the eastern military region, in coordination with the security services and the Anti-Narcotics Department, detected an attempt by a drone to cross the border illegally from Syrian territory to Jordanian territory,” the statement read.
The seized items were confiscated and transferred to the relevant authorities.


KSrelief distributes hygiene kits in Sudan, Syria 

Updated 47 min 7 sec ago
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KSrelief distributes hygiene kits in Sudan, Syria 

RIYADH: Saudi aid group, KSrelief, has distributed hygiene kits to displaced and needy families in Sudan and Syria, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 
The aid group gave out 620 kits to the needy in Sudan’s Sinar State, benefiting 3,100 individuals. 
They also handed out 435 shelter kits to 2,175 people in the River Nile State in Sudan. 

KSrelief distributes 435 shelter bags in Sudan. (SPA)


In Syria, the group secured 796 hygiene kits in Idlib Governorate for 4,614 individuals from 769 families affected by last year’s earthquake.
They families in Idlib also received 769 food parcels.

KSrelief distributes 1,538 food parcels in Syria’s Idlib. (SPA)

 


EU backs ICJ ruling on ‘illegal’ Israeli occupation

Updated 21 July 2024
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EU backs ICJ ruling on ‘illegal’ Israeli occupation

  • Sweeping opinion by Hague-based International Court of Justice called on Israel to end its occupation immediately
  • ICJ ruling not binding but comes amid mounting concern over death toll and destruction in Israel’s war against Hamas

BRUSSELS, Belgium: The top UN court’s ruling that Israel’s 57-year occupation of Palestinian land was “illegal” is “largely consistent with EU positions,” the bloc’s foreign policy chief said Saturday.
The sweeping opinion on Friday by The Hague-based International Court of Justice — which called for the occupation to end as soon as possible — was immediately slammed as a “decision of lies” by Israel.
But the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs said that the bloc had taken “good note” of the court’s ruling and urged further backing for the court’s opinion.
“In a world of constant and increasing violations of international law, it is our moral duty to reaffirm our unwavering commitment to all ICJ decisions in a consistent manner, irrespective of the subject in question,” Josep Borrell said.
He added in a statement that the opinion “will need to be analyzed more thoroughly, including in view of its implications for EU policy.”
The ICJ’s ruling is not binding, but it comes amid mounting concern over the death toll and destruction in Israel’s war against Hamas sparked by the group’s brutal October 7 attacks, as well as increased tensions in the West Bank.
Its intervention is likely to increase diplomatic pressure on Israel over the war in Gaza, as will the EU’s backing.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the ruling.
“The Jewish people are not occupiers in their own land — not in our eternal capital Jerusalem, nor in our ancestral heritage of Judea and Samaria” (the occupied West Bank), he said in a statement.
In June 1967, Israel seized the then-Jordan-annexed West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula from Egypt in a crushing six-day war against its Arab neighbors.
It then began to settle the 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles) of seized Arab territory.
The UN later declared the occupation of Palestinian territory illegal, and Cairo regained the Sinai under its 1979 peace deal with Israel.