US vows UN Security Council veto of proposal on Palestinians

Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations Riyad Mansour speaks to members of the UN security council during an emergency session on Israel-Gaza Conflict at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. (AFP)
Updated 02 June 2018
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US vows UN Security Council veto of proposal on Palestinians

UNITED NATIONS: The US is vowing to veto an Arab-backed resolution that asks the UN chief to propose measures to ensure “international protection” for Palestinian civilians.
A vote on the measure — which comes after weeks of urgent discussions but no agreement on any action about escalating violence in Gaza — was at one point expected Thursday evening. Then diplomats said it would be delayed and now the council is scheduled to vote at 3:00 p.m. (1900 GMT) on Friday.
The Kuwait-sponsored draft resolution “deplores” and demands a halt to “the use of any excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force” by the Israeli military, while it also “deplores the firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilian areas.”
US Ambassador Nikki Haley lambasted the proposal for discussing “excessive” Israeli force while making no mention of Hamas, which rules the coastal enclave.
“It is a grossly one-sided approach that is morally bankrupt and would only serve to undermine ongoing efforts toward peace between the Israelis and Palestinians,” Haley said in a statement Thursday evening. Israel’s UN ambassador, Danny Danon, also has sharply criticized the proposal.
The Security Council has been deeply divided and paralyzed over dealing with the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After a series of emergency meetings about Gaza — the latest just Wednesday — the UN’s most powerful body so far hasn’t been able to agree even on a press statement.
The draft resolution expresses “grave concern” at the escalation of violence and tensions and the deteriorating situation in the Palestinian territories, especially since the start of a series of mass protests at the Gaza border on March 30.
Over 110 Palestinians were killed and thousands wounded by Israeli military fire. Israel said its troops were defending its border and accused Hamas of trying to attack under the cover of the protest.
Then Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad group bombarded southern Israel with rockets and mortars Tuesday, and Israel responded by striking targets throughout Gaza. It was the largest flare-up for violence between the sides since a 2014 war. Hamas said Wednesday it had agreed to a cease-fire with Israel.
The draft resolution calls for urgent steps “to ensure an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire.” It asks UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for a written report within 60 days ways to ensure “the safety, protection and well-being of the Palestinian civilian population under Israeli occupation,” including recommendations about “an international protection mechanism.”
The draft also urges immediate, unimpeded humanitarian access and “tangible steps” toward reconciliation between different Palestinian factions.
At Kuwait’s request, the council has held multiple emergency meetings on the border clashes. Tuesday’s torrent of rockets and mortars prompted the US to call for Wednesday’s meeting, where UN Mideast envoy Nikolay Mladenov said the latest escalation in Gaza was a warning of “how close to the brink of war we are every day.”
Both the US and Kuwaiti ambassadors said their nations had proposed press statements on the Israeli-Palestinian issue that had been blocked in recent weeks.
Israel and Hamas are bitter enemies and have fought three wars since the group seized control of Gaza in 2007.


Civilians flee fighting in Syrian southwest

A Syrian family rides with belongings on a tractor-drawn trailer as they flee from fighting in the southern Syrian province of Daraa on June 21, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 June 2018
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Civilians flee fighting in Syrian southwest

  • Opposition fighters have vowed not surrender “an inch” of the territory to Assad, one of their commanders said earlier this week
  • Fighting in the southwest has been contained since last year by a “de-escalation” deal agreed by the US and Russia, Bashar Assad’s most powerful ally

MOSCOW, BEIRUT: Thousands of people have fled opposition-held areas of southwestern Syria being targeted by regime bombardment, a war monitor said on Thursday, as Damascus steps up attacks on an area near the border with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said some 12,500 people had fled opposition-held areas of northeastern Daraa province in the past 48 hours.
The war has pivoted toward the southwest since the Syrian regime and its allies crushed the last remaining pockets of opposition-held territory near Damascus and the city of Homs.
Fighting in the southwest has been contained since last year by a “de-escalation” deal agreed by the US and Russia, Bashar Assad’s most powerful ally.
A major Syrian regime offensive in the area would risk an escalation of the seven-year-old war. The area is of strategic importance to Israel, which is deeply alarmed by Iranian influence in Syria.
Washington has warned it will take “firm and appropriate measures” in response to violations of the “de-escalation” deal.
Assad said earlier this month the regime, at Russia’s suggestion, was seeking to strike a deal in the southwest similar to agreements that have restored its control of other areas through withdrawals of opposition forces.
But he also said there had been no results yet and blamed “Israeli and American interference.” He said the territory would be recovered by force if necessary. Opposition fighters have vowed not surrender “an inch” of the territory to Assad, one of their commanders said earlier this week.

Russia ‘skeptical’ over UN report
Meanwhile, the Russian foreign minister on Thursday said he was “skeptical” about a UN report accusing the Syrian regime of committing crimes against humanity during the siege of Eastern Ghouta. The report published on Wednesday said forces loyal to the Syrian regime had deliberately starved civilians during the siege between February and April, among other crimes.
“We are in principle very skeptical toward the methods of this sort of work, whether it comes to war crimes or the use of chemical weapons,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference in Moscow with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. When
questioned by journalists, Lavrov confirmed he had not seen the
report.

He said it was “based on data obtained through social networks, video that was filmed by witnesses,” rather than being put together on the ground.
The five-year siege, on the outskirts of the capital, ended in April when Damascus regained control of the rebel enclave.
As pro-government forces dramatically escalated their campaign to recapture the besieged enclave, they used tactics that were “largely unlawful in nature,” the UN-commissioned report said.
The tactics, it said, “aimed at punishing the inhabitants of eastern Ghouta and forcing the population, collectively, to surrender or starve.”
Russia has been involved in Syria’s civil war since September 2015. Its military support of the regime changed the course of the war, allowing government troops to retake more than half the country from rebels and the Daesh group.
More than 350,000 people have been killed in Syria’s war since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.