Tunisia, Russia call for Arab League to readmit Syria

Tunisia’s foreign minister Khemaies Jhinaoui said that ‘Syria is an Arab state, and its natural place is within the Arab League.’ (AFP)
Updated 26 January 2019

Tunisia, Russia call for Arab League to readmit Syria

  • The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in November 2011
  • ‘The question of Syria returning to the Arab League does not depend on Tunisia but on the Arab League’

TUNIS: Syria’s “natural place” is within the Arab League, Tunisia’s foreign minister said Saturday, ahead of the organization’s annual summit in Tunis in March.
“Syria is an Arab state, and its natural place is within the Arab League,” Khemaies Jhinaoui said during a news conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, who is on a tour of North African countries.
The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in November 2011 as the death toll in the country’s civil war mounted.
“The question of Syria returning to the Arab League does not depend on Tunisia but on the Arab League,” Jhinaoui said.
“The foreign ministers (of member states) will decide on this subject,” he added. “What interests us is Syria’s stability and security.”
Persistent divisions between the Arab League’s member states have worked against Syria’s readmission.
Russia’s intervention in Syria’s war since 2015 in favor of President Bashar Assad has turned the tide of the conflict in the regime’s favor.
The United Arab Emirates reopened its embassy in Damascus in December, the same month Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir made the first visit of any Arab leader to the Syrian capital since the start of the war.
But Qatar earlier this month rejected normalizing ties with Assad.
Lavrov backed overtures to readmit Syria.
“As we have discussed in Algeria and Morocco over the past few days, we would like Tunis to also support Syria’s return to the Arab family, the Arab League,” he said in Tunis.
Lavrov, who has also visited Morocco on his tour, said that Tunisia and Russia agreed to ramp up “anti-terror cooperation.”
In reference to Franco-Italian differences on Libya, he said: “We must harmonize the efforts of outside mediators seeking a settlement to the Libyan conflict.
“This must be done under the sponsorship of the United Nations and taking into account the points of view of neighbors such as Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt.”
Russia’s foreign minister, winding up his North Africa visit, also met Tunisia’s president and prime minister on Saturday.


Homemade bomb kills Israeli teen, wounds two others in West Bank

Updated 33 min 16 sec ago

Homemade bomb kills Israeli teen, wounds two others in West Bank

  • Israeli security forces deployed throughout the area where the attack took place near the settlement of Dolev, northwest of Ramallah, to search for suspects
  • Palestinians sporadically clash with Israeli settlers and security forces in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967, but bomb blasts have been rare in recent years

JERUSALEM: A rare homemade bomb attack in the occupied West Bank killed an Israeli teen and seriously wounded her father and brother Friday as they visited a spring near a Jewish settlement, officials said.
Israeli security forces deployed throughout the area where the attack took place near the settlement of Dolev, northwest of Ramallah, to search for suspects.
Israeli medics had earlier reported that a 17-year-old had been critically wounded in the attack and officials later announced her death, naming her as Rina Shnerb from the central Israeli city of Lod.
Medics from the Magen David Adom rescue service initially gave the ages of the two wounded as 46 and 20, before amending to 21 in the latter case.
The army said the three victims were a father and his two children.
The two wounded were taken by helicopter to hospital, the army said.
“Three civilians who were in a nearby spring were injured in an IED (improvised explosive device) blast,” it said in a statement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “harsh terrorist attack” and sent condolences to the family, while pledging to continue building settlements.
“The security arms are in pursuit after the abhorrent terrorists,” he said in a statement.
“We will apprehend them. The long arm of Israel reaches all those who seek our lives and will settle accounts with them.”
United Nations envoy Nickolay Mladenov condemned the “shocking, heinous” attack, saying there was nothing heroic in Shnerb’s “murder,” calling it a “despicable, cowardly act.”
“Terror must be unequivocally condemned by ALL,” Mladenov wrote on Twitter.
Israeli forces meanwhile entered the Palestinian village of Beitunia, south of the spring, to take footage from surveillance cameras.
An AFP reporter said Palestinians clashed there with Israeli soldiers, but no casualties were reported.
Chief of the army, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi visited the site of the attack to understand the incident and oversee the efforts to locate the perpetrators, which he was “confident” would happen quickly, the military said.
Later in the day, Shnerb was buried in her hometown Lod, with thousands participating in the funeral.
Shnerb’s father Eitan, who was wounded and couldn’t attend the funeral, relayed through an uncle his request that people focus on “our strength and love and the wonderful nation and our good land” and avoid sinking into “weakness and anger and strife.”
“We should be worthy of the great sacrifice we offered today,” Eitan Shnerb was cited by the uncle as saying.
In a speech on Friday, Ismail Haniya, the leader of the Islamist Hamas movement which rules Gaza, praised the attack but did not claim responsibility for it.
He referred to a recent clash between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers at the highly sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem and sought to draw a link between the two incidents.
AFP reporters said thousands of Gazans participated in weekly Friday protests at the Israeli border fence, with some youths using slingshots to launch stones at the barrier and a few approaching it.
The health ministry in the enclave said over 122 Palestinians were wounded in clashes with Israeli forces, dozens of them hit by live fire.
Palestinians sporadically clash with Israeli settlers and security forces in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967, but bomb blasts have been rare in recent years.
Palestinian attacks have mostly involved guns, knives and car ramming.
There have been concerns about a possible increase in violence in the run up to Israel’s September 17 general election.
A week ago, a Palestinian carried out a car-ramming attack in the West Bank, wounding two Israelis before being shot dead.
On August 8, an off-duty Israeli soldier’s body was found with multiple stab wounds. Two Palestinian suspects were later arrested.
Late Thursday, a Palestinian threw grenades at Israeli soldiers while attempting to cross the Gaza border and was shot by Israeli forces, leaving him wounded, the army and the Gaza health ministry said.
Gaza militants have also launched six missiles at Israel in the past week; the most recent were on Wednesday.
In retaliation, the Israeli army said it struck “a number of military targets in a Hamas naval facility in the northern Gaza Strip.”