US and Argentina to work together to cut off Hezbollah funding in Latin America

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Argentinian Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie hold a news conference at San Martin Palace in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Reuters)
Updated 05 February 2018
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US and Argentina to work together to cut off Hezbollah funding in Latin America

BUENOS AIRES: The United States and Argentina are to work together more closely to cut off Lebanese Hezbollah’s funding networks in Latin America, both nations’ top diplomats said Sunday.
Argentina has a large Lebanese expatriate population and US authorities suspect groups within it of raising funds through organized crime to support the Iranian-backed armed movement.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in Buenos Aires for talks with his Argentinian counterpart Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie, and afterwards they confirmed that the issue had come up.
“With respect to Hezbollah, we also did speak today in our discussion about all of the region about how we must all jointly go after these transnational criminal organizations — narcotics trafficking, human trafficking, smuggling, money laundering — because we see the connections to terrorist financing organizations as well,” Tillerson said.
“And we did specifically discuss the presence of Lebanese Hezbollah in this hemisphere, which is raising funds, obviously, to support its terrorist activities.
“So it is something that we jointly agree we need to attack and eliminate,” Tillerson said.
Faurie, standing by Tillerson’s side at a joint news conference, agreed, saying that South America had become a “zone of peace” and that outside groups must not be allowed to jeopardize this.
“And, as Secretary Tillerson said, we need to intensify every possible exchange not only in terms of dialogue but also in terms of information on the actions of these groups which take advantage of transnational crime to foster their interests, which Argentina certainly does not agree with,” he said.
In 1992, the violence of the Middle East erupted in Argentina, when bombers attacked the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29 people. Two years later, an attack on a Jewish community center in the city left 85 dead.
None of the bombers were ever convicted, but international investigators followed a trail that appears to link them to Hezbollah — a group which Washington has designated a terrorist organization — and to senior Iranian officials.
The bombings did not continue, but US experts believe that Hezbollah, working under close Iranian supervision, has built a fund-raising network in Latin America that profits from drug smuggling to fund its political and military activities.


UN chief proposes options to protect Palestinians

Updated 18 August 2018
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UN chief proposes options to protect Palestinians

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday presented four options aimed at boosting the protection of Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories, from sending UN rights monitors and unarmed observers to deploying a military or police force under UN mandate.
The proposals were contained in a report requested by the General Assembly in response to a surge of violence in Gaza, where 171 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since late March.
The UN chief stressed that for each of the options, cooperation by Israel and the Palestinians would be necessary. It remained unlikely however that Israel would agree to the proposals.
In the 14-page report, Guterres proposed:
• Providing a “more robust UN presence on the ground” with rights monitors and political officers to report on the situation.
• Pouring in more UN humanitarian and development aid to “ensure the well-being of the population.”
• Creating a civilian observer mission that would be present in sensitive areas such as checkpoints and near Israeli settlements, with a mandate to report on protection issues.
• Deploying an armed military or police force, under a UN mandate, to provide physical protection to Palestinian civilians.
A UN mandate for a protection force would require a decision from the Security Council, where the United States could use its veto power to block a measure opposed by Israel.
A small European-staffed observer mission was deployed in the West Bank city of Hebron in 1994, but Israel has since rejected calls for an international presence in flashpoint areas.
In the report, Guterres said the United Nations was already undertaking many protection initiatives but that “these measures fall short” of the concerns raised in a General Assembly resolution adopted in June.
In that measure, the 193-nation assembly condemned Israel for Palestinian deaths in Gaza and tasked Guterres with the drafting of proposals for “an international protection mechanism” for the Palestinians.
Guterres argued that a political solution to the conflict was needed to address the safety of Palestinians but that “until such a solution is achieved, member-states may further explore all practical and feasible measures that will significantly improve the protection of the Palestinian civilian population.”
“Such measures would also improve the security of Israeli civilians.”
On Friday, Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians taking part in protests along the Gaza border and 270 other Palestinians were wounded.
Israel has defended its use of live ammunition in Gaza by invoking its right to self-defense. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper in July.
“The targeting of civilians, particularly children, is unacceptable,” Guterres said in the report, adding that “those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law must be held accountable.”
UN efforts to ensure the well-being of Palestinians must strengthened, he added, singling out the funding crisis at the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA as being “of particular concern.”
UNRWA is facing a major budget shortfall after President Donald Trump’s administration decided to withhold its contribution to the agency.
The report released to all UN member-states comes amid a vacuum in Middle East peace efforts as European and other big powers await a peace plan from the Trump administration that has been under discussion for months.
UN diplomats have recently begun questioning whether the US peace plan will ever materialize.
The United Nations has warned that a new war could explode in Gaza.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, including its Hamas rulers, have fought three wars since 2008.