First Red Cross visit for Palestinian hunger strike leader

Palestinian activists stand around a 5x4 meter mosaic portrait of Marwan Barghouti near an Israeli military installation in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AP)
Updated 11 May 2017
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First Red Cross visit for Palestinian hunger strike leader

JERUSALEM: The Red Cross visited the leader of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails on Thursday for the first time since the strike began, a spokesman said.
A delegate from the International Committee of the Red Cross visited strike leader Marwan Barghouti on Thursday morning, the spokesman told AFP, the first such visit since the strike began 25 days ago.
The spokesman was unable to provide an update on his health “in accordance with the principles of medical confidentiality.”
The ICRC had been allowed access to other prisoners on hunger strike, but Israel had been restricting access to Barghouti.
Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners began refusing food on April 17, issuing a list of demands including better medical services, family visits and more dignified detention conditions.
Israel says conditions meet all international standards.
Barghouti, a senior member of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah party and a highly popular figure among Palestinians, is serving five life sentences over his role in the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising.
Earlier this week, Israel produced footage they said showed him secretly breaking his fast in his cell.
His wife Fadwa rejected the footage as fake, saying it was “intended to break the morale of prisoners.”


US envoy: Fight against Daesh in last Syria stronghold may end soon

Updated 15 November 2018
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US envoy: Fight against Daesh in last Syria stronghold may end soon

  • James Jeffrey: Washington keen to establish constitutional committee by end of the year

WASHINGTON: The administration of US President Donald Trump hopes that the US-backed fight against Daesh in its last foothold in northeastern Syria will end within months but American forces will remain to ensure the “enduring defeat” of the militant group, a top US diplomat said on Wednesday.

Ambassador James Jeffrey, the US special representative for Syrian engagement, said the US believes the way forward in Syria includes defeating Daesh, reinvigorating the political process and winding down the long-running civil war.

Toward that end, he said, the US hopes to see the formation of a committee before the end of the year to work on a new constitution for Syria as agreed by the leaders of Russia, Germany, France and Turkey during their meeting in Istanbul in October.

He said US forces would remain in place after the coalition forces prevail over Daesh military units to ensure the group does not “regenerate itself.”

“The enduring defeat means not simply smashing the last of Daesh’s (Daesh) conventional military units holding terrain, but ensuring that Daesh doesn’t immediately come back in sleeper cells, come back as an insurgent movement,” Jeffrey said.

Washington also wants the withdrawal of Iranian military forces from Syria once the underlying causes of the conflict have been resolved, he said, noting that Iran’s continued military presence would represent a threat to US partners in the region.

Jeffrey said the final ground combat is along the Euphrates River and is being led by Syrian Democratic Forces assisted by US military personnel.

“The fight is continuing and we hope that it will be over in a few months and that will be the last of Daesh’s terrain that it holds in a quasi-conventional way,” he said.

Jeffrey said convening a committee under UN auspices to begin work on a new Syrian constitution was a “critical step” toward advancing the political process. 

He said the US would hold Russia to account to use its influence to bring the regime of its ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, to the negotiating table.

“Our goal, which again was supported by Russia, France, Germany and Turkey and agreed in the Oct. 27 Istanbul communique, is to establish this constitutional committee by the end of the year,” he said.

Jeffrey said getting Iranian forces out of Syria, where they back Assad’s rule, was not a US military goal but should be an outcome of the process to end the civil war and the only way to achieve lasting peace.

He said newly reinstated US sanctions against Iran would encourage Tehran to scale back its presence in Syria.