Israeli general denies role as US slaps sanctions for arms sale

Brigadier-General Yisrael Ziv reportedly planned to organize attacks by mercenaries on South Sudanese. (Reuters)
Updated 16 December 2018
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Israeli general denies role as US slaps sanctions for arms sale

  • The US Treasury slapped sanctions on Israel Ziv and three firms he controls

JERUSALEM: A retired Israeli Army general hit by US sanctions for alleged involvement in the South Sudan conflict denied the charges on Sunday, saying they were based on false information and that he was available for investigation by the Trump administration.

The US Treasury on Friday slapped sanctions on Israel Ziv and three firms he controls, accusing him of using an agricultural consultancy as cover for weapons sales worth $150 million to the Juba government while also arming the opposition.

“He (Ziv) has also reportedly planned to organize attacks by mercenaries on South Sudanese oil fields and infrastructure, in an effort to create a problem that only his company and affiliates could solve,” a Treasury statement said.

Interviewed by Israel’s Army Radio, Ziv said he had never trafficked in weaponry and called the charges against him “ludicrous, baseless, completely divorced from reality.”

“We have an amazing agriculture project there ... that many communities depend on. Tens of thousands of people are employed through this project and it feeds the South Sudan market. So anyone who claims this project is a cover should come see it.”

The Trump administration has championed international arms embargoes against South Sudan to pressure President Salva Kiir into ending the country’s civil war and humanitarian crisis.

Two South Sudanese nationals, Obac William Olawo and Gregory Vasili, were named alongside Ziv in Friday’s US Treasury sanctions notice. Neither was immediately available for comment.

“This is not the first time the (US) administration has used sanctions to enforce its foreign policy,” Ziv said.

“I am approachable ... I want to believe in the decency of the administration. And they are welcome to come, to check, to investigate. We will open up everything for them.”

South Sudan erupted in conflict in 2013 after Kiir sacked Riek Machar as vice president. Ethnically charged fighting soon spread, shutting down oil fields and forcing millions to flee.

At least 383,000 South Sudanese have died as a result of the war, through combat, starvation, disease or other factors, according to a recent study by London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine researchers.

Under pressure from governments in East Africa and from UN and Western donors, Machar’s group, other rebel factions and the government in September signed the peace accord under which he will again become vice president.


Migrants stranded at sea for three weeks face deportation

Updated 25 min 46 sec ago
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Migrants stranded at sea for three weeks face deportation

  • Vessel carrying 75 illegal refugees, including 32 children, remained stranded 25 km off Tunisia

TUNIS: Tunisia has allowed dozens of migrants, mostly from Bangladesh, to disembark after three weeks stranded in the Mediterranean, so that they can return to their home countries, the Red Crescent said on Wednesday.

An Egyptian boat rescued at least 75 migrants in Tunisian waters last month. But local authorities in the governorate of Medinine said its migrant centers were too overcrowded to let them ashore, leaving the vessel stranded 25 km off the coastal city of Zarzis.

“After they were stranded for three weeks at sea in difficult conditions, Tunisia agreed to dock the ship, and migrants accepted to return to their countries in coming days,” Red Crescent official Mongi Slim told Reuters.

After a visit by officials from Bangladesh Embassy, the migrants agreed to return home, according to Mongi Slim, a Red Crescent official.

Earlier, Red Crescent representatives welcomed to port 64 Bangladeshis, nine Egyptians, a Moroccan, a Sudanese citizen, who left Zuwara in Libya in late May.

The migrants, which include at least 32 children and unaccompanied minors, are to be transferred to a reception center in Sfax from where they are set to return home, Slim added.

Worried about creating a precedent, Tunisian authorities said they accepted the migrants as an exception and for “humanitarian” reasons.

“We thank Tunisia’s renewed commitment to life and dignity,” said Lorena Lando, the head of the International Organization for Migration in Tunisia.

She added that it is urgent to put in place a collaborative approach to helping migrants in the Mediterranean.

Neighboring Libya’s west coast is a frequent departure point for African migrants hoping to reach Europe by paying human traffickers. But their numbers have dropped after an Italian-led effort to disrupt smuggling networks and support the Libyan coast guard.

At least 65 migrants drowned last month when their boat capsized off Tunisia after setting out from Libya.

In the first four months of 2019, 164 people are known to have died on the route, a smaller number but a higher death rate than in previous years, with one dying for every three who reach European shores, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said.