Darfur clashes kill 3 as Bashir urges reconciliation

Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir. (AFP)
Updated 22 September 2017
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Darfur clashes kill 3 as Bashir urges reconciliation

SHATTAYA, SUDAN: Clashes between Sudanese forces and residents of a Darfur camp for the displaced killed three people Friday, the UN said, as President Omar Al-Bashir urged reconciliation in the war-torn region.
Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on genocide and war crimes charges related to the Darfur conflict, is touring the region ahead of a US decision next month on whether to permanently lift a decades-old trade embargo on Sudan.
On Friday, residents of Camp Kalma in South Darfur protesting against Bashir’s visit to the region clashed with government forces, with three residents killed and 26 wounded, the UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) said in a statement.
“I call upon everyone involved in this situation to restore calm as soon as possible,” mission chief Jeremiah Mamabolo said.
Thick smoke billowed from inside the camp as police in riot gear deployed outside and UN ambulances ferried the wounded to clinics, reported an AFP photographer taken to Darfur by the authorities to cover Bashir’s visit.
Camp Kalma houses more than 125,000 people displaced by the conflict, and as Friday’s clashes took place, Bashir addressed a gathering in a nearby village and vowed to back reconciliation efforts in the region.
“I want the world to hear that we are in Shattaya and we are with the people of Shattaya,” Bashir said in the village which saw pitched battles between government forces and rebels when the Darfur conflict erupted in 2003.
“I want to thank the people of Shattaya for their reconciliation, and we will continue supporting you until the last displaced person returns to his home and his farm.”
Global rights groups say that villages such as Shattaya were the scenes of war crimes and crimes against humanity when government forces launched their counter-insurgency operations against rebel groups.
The Hague-based ICC says Sudanese forces allegedly carried out “unlawful attacks, followed by systematic acts of pillage, on towns and villages, mainly inhabited by civilians belonging to the (African) Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa tribes” in Darfur.
The Darfur conflict began when ethnic African minority rebels took up arms against Bashir’s Arab-dominated government, accusing it of economic and political marginalization.
The United Nations says the conflict has killed about 300,000 people and displaced more than 2.5 million, most of whom now live in large camps.
More than a decade of conflict has left Darfur awash with weapons in the hands of tribal militias, including those backed by government forces.
Bashir has been urging locals to give up their arms as he toured the region, saying that the conflict has now ended.
On October 12, US President Donald Trump is due to decide whether to permanently lift American sanctions against Sudan.
Although Washington imposed the sanctions in 1997 over Khartoum’s alleged support for Islamist militant groups, it argues that the conflict in Darfur has been a factor in keeping them in place.


Israel to improve coordination with Moscow over Syria after plane crash

Updated 32 min 5 sec ago
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Israel to improve coordination with Moscow over Syria after plane crash

  • Fifteen Russian crew were killed when the IL-20 surveillance plane crashed near Latakia in northern Syria on Monday
  • Russia has said Syria shot the plane down shortly after Israeli jets hit the area

JERUSALEM: Israel said on Thursday it would not halt strikes on Syria but would do more to "deconflict" them with Russian forces, after Moscow accused it of "irresponsible and unfriendly actions" that led to Syrian ground fire mistakenly downing a Russian plane.
Fifteen Russian crew were killed when the IL-20 surveillance plane crashed near Latakia in northern Syria on Monday. Russia has said Syria shot the plane down shortly after Israeli jets hit the area, and accused Israel of creating the dangerous conditions by failing to give sufficient advance notice.
Although Russian President Vladimir Putin initially described the downing as "tragic chance", Moscow has made its anger clear.
"Moscow views as irresponsible and unfriendly actions of Israeli Air Force, which exposed Russian Il-20 aircraft to danger and led to death of 15 servicemen," the Russian embassy in Tel Aviv said on Twitter in English, adding that Russia would "take all necessary measures to eliminate threat to life and security of our military fighting against terrorism".
Israel has struck Syria scores of times during its seven-year civil war to prevent what it says are transfers of weapons to Hezbollah fighters and other Iranian allies. Russia has largely overlooked the sorties, which the Israelis say pose no direct threat to Moscow's ally, President Bashar al-Assad.
Israel dispatched its air force chief to brief Moscow about the incident on Thursday. Expressing regret at the loss of life, Israel denied wrongdoing and blamed what it called wanton Syrian anti-aircraft fire after its jets had withdrawn back over the border.
Speaking to Army Radio, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman made clear that Israel would not halt attacks in Syria.
"We will do whatever is necessary to safeguard the security of Israel's citizens ... and we will not hold these discussions over the airwaves," he said.
But when pressed during the interview, Lieberman avoided asserting Israeli "freedom of action" over Syria, a term he has used in the past.
Naftali Bennett, another member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet, said "deconfliction mechanisms" would be improved, referring to a Russian-Israeli hotline designed to avoid inadvertent clashes with forces Moscow sent to Syria as part of a military intervention mounted in 2015.
"We will of course strengthen these mechanisms. We will do everything so as not to harm anyone we do not intend to, God forbid," Bennett told Army Radio in a separate interview.
Ron Ben-Yishai, a veteran Israeli military commentator, predicted a more patient air force approach in future strikes.
"It is possible that, next time, they will say, 'Okay let's wait until the (Russian) plane goes back to its base, and then we will carry out the attack,'" Ben-Yishai told Ynet TV.
Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas, who like their patron Iran have been helping Assad militarily in Syria, said Israeli strikes there would not prevent them getting advanced weaponry.
"No matter what you do to cut the route, the matter is over and the resistance possesses precision and non-precision rockets and weapons capabilities," Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech.