Sudan denies ‘military cooperation’ with Turkey over port investment

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, right, gives a press conference with his Sudanese counterpart Ibrahim Al-Ghandour after their meeting together and with their respective intelligence chiefs at Tahrir Palace in the Egyptian capital Cairo on Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 09 February 2018
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Sudan denies ‘military cooperation’ with Turkey over port investment

CAIRO: Sudan on Thursday denied any military cooperation with Turkey over a controversial port after a meeting with Egypt to ease months of diplomatic tensions.
“There is no intention to establish a Turkish base, not in Suakin, nor any place in Sudan,” Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Ghandour said in Cairo.
The meeting was called after the latest flare-up in decades of difficult relations, and as part of an agreement struck by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and the Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir at the African Union summit in Ethiopia last month.
On Jan. 4, Sudan recalled its ambassador to Cairo days after Egyptian media warned that Sudan was “playing with fire” by strengthening its ties with Qatar and Turkey.
Ankara signed a cooperation deal in December with Khartoum and agreed to carry out a series of reconstruction projects in Sudan worth $650 million.
These included rebuilding the port of Suakin on Sudan’s Red Sea coast. Turkey said this would increase tourism to Sudan and establish a transit point for pilgrims traveling to Makkah.
Egypt feared that Turkey planned to use Suakin as a military base to gain a foothold in the region.
At a press conference with his Egyptian counterpart on Thursday, Al-Ghandour stressed the area has 400 buildings and “it is a pure Sudanese property for Sudanese people only.”
“The Turkish president offered to renovate old houses and offered to be used as a tourist island for the common benefit between Sudan and Egypt,” he said.
During the meeting between the foreign ministers and heads of the intelligence services from the two countries, Egypt and Sudan agreed to stop their war of words, and strengthen relations.
Egyptian Foreign Ministry said the discussions were “very successful.”
Khartoum and Cairo have long disagreed over ideological and territorial issues, including the status of an 8,000 sq. mile piece of land known as the Hala’ib Triangle.
They also disagree over a multibillion-dollar dam Ethiopia is building on its share of the Nile. Sudan supports the project, but Egypt fears it will have a severe effect on water supplies downstream.
The statement said the countries would raise the level of bilateral cooperation to the highest level and set up a framework to open up coordination regarding the Ethiopian dam.
The two sides also agreed to improve cooperation in a number of areas including energy and infrastructure projects and communication between the foreign ministers.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said the two countries would raise security and political coordination to the highest level.
Al-Ghandour said the meeting was “a historic point in the relations between the two countries” and that the Sudanese ambassador to Cairo would return very soon.
He said relations between the two countries is a historical one of blood and brotherhood.


Gaza massacre probe: Human rights advocates accuse Israeli military of whitewash

Israeli airtrikes in areas such as Rafah in 2014 caused massive damage. (File/AFP)
Updated 17 August 2018
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Gaza massacre probe: Human rights advocates accuse Israeli military of whitewash

  • The Israeli investigation identified over 110 dead — including 42 militants and up to 72 civilians who were "unintentionally killed"
  • The 2014 war was the third and most devastating round of fighting between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers

JERUSALEM: The Israeli military said its investigation into one of the bloodiest incidents of the 2014 war in the Gaza Strip found no criminal wrongdoing by Israeli forces and there were no grounds to prosecute any troops.
The announcement drew condemnations from Palestinians and human rights advocates, who accused the military of a whitewash.
The investigation focused on an Aug. 1, 2014, battle in the southern Gaza town of Rafah that erupted after an Israeli military officer was feared abducted by Palestinian militants during a cease-fire. Over 110 Palestinians were killed in daylong fighting, and Palestinian witnesses had complained of heavy and indiscriminate shelling by Israeli forces.
Following what it called a comprehensive investigation, the army said its military advocate general (MAG) determined "a criminal investigation is not warranted into the incidents that occurred during the fighting."
Fearing a soldier had fallen into enemy hands, Israel invoked its "Hannibal" procedure — a protocol that allowed the heavy use of force to prevent the capture of a comrade. Israeli forces attacked the area with artillery fire, tanks shells and airstrikes.
At the time, Palestinian residents described a terrifying ordeal as they fled their homes and searched for cover amid heavy shelling of their neighborhood, located on the outskirts of the city. Human rights groups identified 121 people killed and accused Israel of committing war crimes by allegedly using disproportionate or indiscriminate force and failing to distinguish between civilians and combatants.
The Israeli investigation identified over 110 dead — including 42 militants and up to 72 civilians who were "unintentionally killed." In one instance, it said 16 civilians were killed in an airstrike on a family home that was targeted due to faulty intelligence.
But it said all of its actions had "clear and legitimate military purposes" and found no evidence that attacks were indiscriminate, aimed at civilians or motivated by revenge.
"The MAG did not find that the actions of the IDF forces that were examined raised grounds for a reasonable suspicion of criminal misconduct," it said.
"The MAG found that the IDF's policy with respect to the use of firepower during the fighting — whether by tanks, by artillery and mortars, or from the air — accorded with Israeli domestic law and international law requirements."
The "Hannibal" directive was canceled by the military in 2016 following heavy criticism. Last year, the military introduced a revised version.
Human rights groups have accused the Israeli military of ignoring or covering up wrongdoing in its investigations over the years. B'Tselem, a leading Israeli human rights group, condemned the latest findings.
"The military advocate general proves again that no matter how high the number of Palestinians killed is, nor how arbitrary the circumstances of their killing by the military was, the Israeli whitewash mechanism he heads will find a way to bury the facts," it said.
Wael Al-Namla, who lost three family members that day, said the army's findings were "crazy." Al-Namla, as well as his toddler son, both lost legs in the shelling as well.
"They were bombing us from the ground and air randomly. They did not just violate the human rights, they forgot that there were humans in Rafah," he said.
"I want an independent international investigation that can guarantee my rights."
The 2014 war was the third and most devastating round of fighting between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers. Over 2,200 Palestinians were killed, including hundreds of civilians, and widespread damage was inflicted on Gaza's infrastructure. During the 50-day war, 73 people were killed on the Israeli side and continued rocket fire on Israeli cities disrupted life throughout large parts of the country.
The Palestinians are seeking to press war crimes charges against Israel at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The court's prosecutor has opened a preliminary investigation, but not made a decision on whether to move ahead with a case.
A key factor in that decision could be whether the prosecutor believes Israel's own investigations into actions by its troops are credible.