Syrian regime to rejoin Geneva talks on Sunday

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura speaks at a meeting with the Syrian Negotiation Commission (SNC) delegation, during the UN-led Intra-Syrian talks in Geneva, Switzerland, on November 30, 2017. (REUTERS/Xu Jinquan/Pool)
Updated 08 December 2017

Syrian regime to rejoin Geneva talks on Sunday

JEDDAH: Syrian regime negotiators will return to Geneva this weekend to rejoin UN-backed peace talks, after leaving the city in protest last week, the UN envoy said Thursday.
“The government has informed us that they would fly back to Geneva on Sunday the 10th of December,” UN mediator Staffan de Mistura told reporters.
Meanwhile, Syrian opposition negotiators in Geneva, according to Agency France-Presse (AFP), are receiving a steady stream of visitors, all bearing the same request: Freeze the demand that Assad resign as a precondition for a peace deal.
“Most of the diplomats that have visited the delegation have repeated the same call,” an opposition delegate told AFP.
“You have to be realistic if you want to solve the conflict,” he described diplomats as telling the opposition.
“They want us to freeze the demand that Assad step down, but not abandon it completely.”
Opposition spokesman Yahya Al-Aridi, however, told Arab News: “No party is actually pressing the opposition to remove any conditions, because the opposition has come to Geneva with a very clear statement in its Riyadh communique: We have no preconditions.”
Al-Aridi said: “The objective of seeing Assad out of power in the early stages of the transition is a goal that has not changed for the opposition.”
He added: “It needs judging from how the regime is not even considering the worst humanitarian cases to which it can respond in one minute. It is an indication that we have a very problematic partner for peace negotiations. That speaks for itself.”
Bahia Al-Mardini, a UK-based Syrian journalist and human rights activist who fled regime persecution, told Arab News: “Rather than applying pressure to the Syrian opposition, the international community must continue to apply pressure to the regime and its allies. Countries like the UK should continue to support us in condemning the regime and its brutality.”
She added: “It is not possible to freeze demands for Assad to step down because Syria’s future cannot involve him. There can be no real solution without agreement on the departure or removal of Assad and anyone involved in shedding the blood of the Syrians. The regime will continue to stall talks in Geneva because it knows that Syrian people do not want to see more violence and do not want to live under the regime. They want democratic change.”
She said: “The UN peace talks are essential to making progress toward a democratic solution. It is clear that the regime does not want peace nor is it serious about reaching a solution in the best interests of civilians. But we cannot give up hope of achieving democracy through the democratic channels we have available.”

Journalist shot at Gaza protest dies of wounds

Updated 26 April 2018

Journalist shot at Gaza protest dies of wounds

  • Ahmed Abu Hussein worked for Radio Shaab, a well-known radio station, and as a photographer for a local news agency
  • Most of the Palestinians killed by Israel since the start of “March of Return” protests on March 30 were shot by snipers on the border

GAZA CITY: A Palestinian journalist shot two weeks ago by Israeli forces on the Gaza border has died, Israeli and Palestinian sources said on Wednesday. He is the second journalist killed in a month of unrest.

Ahmed Abu Hussein, 25, was shot on April 13 while covering protests along the Gaza border for Palestinian media. 

The Gaza Health Ministry announced he had died after receiving treatment inside Israel, which the Sheba hospital near Tel Aviv confirmed. His brother Diaa said they were preparing to transfer the body to Gaza for his funeral.

Abu Hussein worked for Radio Shaab, a well-known radio station seen as close to the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) party, as well as being a photographer for a local news agency.

The family said the body was expected to cross from Israel late Wednesday, with the funeral to be held on Thursday. Abu Hussein was shot in the stomach while covering protests near Jabalia in northern Gaza, the Health Ministry in Gaza said.

Images from the day appear to show him wearing a press helmet in the moments after he was shot. 

The Israeli Army did not immediately comment on the incident.

The Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate said it held the Israeli authorities “fully responsible for this crime” and called for prosecutions. 

Photographer Yasser Murtaja was killed on April 6 while covering the protests. Israel has since accused him of being an active member of Hamas, a claim denied by his family and colleagues.

Abu Hussein’s death brought the toll of Palestinians in Gaza killed by Israeli fire since March 30 to 41.

Most of the Palestinians killed by Israel since the start of “March of Return” protests on March 30 were shot by snipers on the border, while a few others were killed by Israeli artillery or airstrikes. No Israelis have been injured.

The deaths have led to calls for investigation from the UN, EU and others but these have been rejected by Israel.

The Israeli Army says its troops only open fire in self-defense or to stop protesters attempting to breach the barrier separating the territory from Israel.

The return march protests are calling for millions of Palestinians to be allowed to return to their historic homes, that are now inside Israel

Israel says such a return would destroy its identity as a Jewish state and accuses Hamas of seeking to use the protests as a means of violence.