US envoy says US-Taliban talks to resume Saturday

US envoy says US-Taliban talks to resume Saturday
Zalmay Khalilzad made the announcement on Twitter. (File/AFP)
Updated 28 February 2019

US envoy says US-Taliban talks to resume Saturday

US envoy says US-Taliban talks to resume Saturday
  • Khalilzad described the last three days of talks as “solid” and “productive”
  • Khalilzad has been trying to negotiate a resolution of the 17-year war in Afghanistan

DOHA, Qatar: The US envoy leading the talks with the Taliban says the negotiations have been put on hold until this weekend.
Zalmay Khalilzad wrote on Twitter on Thursday that “both sides will take the next two days for internal deliberations, with plans to regroup on Saturday.”
Khalilzad described the last three days of talks as “solid” and “productive.”
He added: “We continue to take slow, steady steps toward understanding and eventually #peace.”
Khalilzad has been trying to negotiate a resolution of the 17-year war in Afghanistan, America’s longest.
The Taliban, who harbored Al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden, ruled Afghanistan before the 2001 US-led invasion after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The Taliban have made a major comeback in recent years. Today, they carry out near-daily attacks on Afghan security forces.


Shock, anger after Kashmiri police detain 20 pro-Palestinian protesters

Shock, anger after Kashmiri police detain 20 pro-Palestinian protesters
Updated 3 min 21 sec ago

Shock, anger after Kashmiri police detain 20 pro-Palestinian protesters

Shock, anger after Kashmiri police detain 20 pro-Palestinian protesters
  • The Palestinian struggle has been romanticized by Kashmiris in murals, graffiti, posters and videos

NEW DELHI: A day after Jammu and Kashmir police arrested 20 people, including a renowned artist, for organizing a peaceful protest over events in Israel and Gaza, locals expressed resentment at the detentions.

Among those arrested in the capital Srinagar was popular graffiti artist Mudasir Gul, who participated in the protest by drawing a mural of a weeping woman, her head draped in a Palestinian flag, with the words “We Are Palestine” emblazoned across it.

“What is my brother’s crime?” Gul’s younger brother, Badrul Islam, said to Arab News. 

“When has painting become a crime in Kashmir? Those boys who took part in the protest would have never thought that they would be detained. It was a normal peaceful protest, an expression of anger. Can’t we protest peacefully also?”

Islam said the entire family now fears for Gul’s future.

“We want the police to let us know what they are going to do with my brother. We are worried that he might be implicated in the Public Safety Act (PSA); if that happens, then it will ruin his career and future,” Islam said.

The PSA is a detention law that does not include any provision for bail. Those booked under it often remain behind bars for years.

Islam’s relative and neighbor, Janbaaz Mustafa, was also worried for his 25-year-old brother Dilwaz, who was among those arrested on Saturday.

“He made flags for the protest. Police arrested him because they said that we cannot protest against Israel,” Mustafa told Arab News, adding: “This is how Kashmir is; where no one is allowed to speak, and police can do anything.”

On Friday, police in south Kashmir’s Shopian district also detained a popular religious preacher, Sarjan Barkati, for promoting the Palestinian cause.

Former chief minister of Kashmir and leader of the pro-India People’s Democratic Party, Mehbooba Mufti, called the “crackdowns on Kashmiri protesters” paranoia.

“Kashmir has become an open-air prison where even thoughts are being monitored. Anything that might act as a trigger for the anger and resentment that has been brewing among Kashmiris for the past two years is perceived as a threat and thus nipped in the bud,” Mufti told Arab News.

“This explains the paranoia and subsequent crackdown on pro-Palestine peaceful protests in Kashmir,” she added.

When contacted by Arab News on Sunday, Kashmir’s Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar refused to comment.

However, in a statement on Saturday, he justified the crackdown, reasoning that “some elements might try to leverage the situation” in Kashmir.

“There are elements who are attempting to leverage the unfortunate situation in Palestine to disturb peace and order in the Kashmir valley,” Kumar said, adding that he “wouldn’t allow … public anger to trigger violence, lawlessness and disorder” on Kashmir’s streets.

“Expressing opinions is a freedom but engineering and inciting violence on streets is unlawful,” the statement said.

Kashmir continues to reel under a landmark law introduced by New Delhi in August 2019 when the central government abrogated the limited constitutional autonomy that the Muslim majority state had since 1948.

The entire region was placed under a lockdown for more than six months, with democratic rights curtailed and political activists and leaders placed under house arrest for months, while the Internet remained suspended for over a year.

On Sunday, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) justified the crackdown and detention of the 20 Kashmiri men, calling it a “pre-emptive” arrest.

“We want peace between Israel and Palestine. We want all countries to support peace,” Manzoor Bhat, BJP spokesperson in Kashmir, told Arab News.

“There is peace now in Kashmir; there is no news of killings. No one can stop you if you are protesting for Palestinians, this is a democracy,” he continued.

However, he added: “Some elements which are inimical to the peace in Kashmir take advantage of such protests ... to create disturbances where someone is killed, and the atmosphere gets vitiated.

“Police have taken a pre-emptive step, and the arrest is an attempt to preempt the situation from going out of control,” Bhat added.

Experts, however, refused to take the bait, with Srinagar-based political analyst Gowhar Geelani saying that Kashmiris expressing solidarity with Palestinians was nothing new.

“Kashmir has a very long and rich tradition of expressing solidarity with the Palestinians,” he said.

“The Palestinian struggle has been romanticized by Kashmiris in murals, graffiti, posters and videos. In 1967, when the Zionist state annexed East Jerusalem, Srinagar witnessed one of the biggest anti-Israel demonstrations,” Geelani told Arab News.

He added that New Delhi was “scared,” and did not want Kashmiris to express solidarity with Palestinians.

“Perhaps New Delhi believes that for the past two years, it has been successful in normalizing silence and curbing dissent through draconian measures. It believes that the Palestinian plight could be a trigger for large-scale protests in Kashmir, which could eventually turn into pro-independence or pro-Pakistan slogan and sentiment,” he added.

Siddiq Wahid, a Srinagar-based professor, said there was a “nice symmetry between the Indian state and Israel in Kashmir.”

He told Arab News: “There is a nice symmetry in this that is quite unintended: One of how the people of Palestine and Kashmir and the Israeli and Indian states are aligned with each other.”

Meanwhile, the New-Delhi based India and Palestinian friendship forum condemned the arrest of the Kashmiris.

“Arresting someone for expressing solidarity with the Palestinians is highly condemnable,” Nadim Khan, president of the forum, told Arab News.

“We are a democracy, and all citizens have a right to express their support to the oppressed people anywhere in the world. The world knows that India is a long-time supporter and friend of Palestine. Supporting Palestine has never been a crime in India. In fact, it’s always encouraged,” he added.


Arab Parliament criticizes European counterpart over silence against Israeli crimes in Palestine

Arab Parliament criticizes European counterpart over silence against Israeli crimes in Palestine
Updated 14 min 18 sec ago

Arab Parliament criticizes European counterpart over silence against Israeli crimes in Palestine

Arab Parliament criticizes European counterpart over silence against Israeli crimes in Palestine
  • It slammed European Parliament for its failure to address Israeli human rights violations in occupied territories

LONDON: The Arab Parliament said it denounces the silence of the European Parliament over the flagrant crimes and violations that are taking place in Palestine by Israel.
In a statement, the Arab parliament criticized its European counterpart’s decision to remain silent “at a time when Arab and European countries and organizations are taking action and expressing their categorical rejection of Israeli violations, which are a blatant defiance to international and humanitarian laws.”
The Arab Parliament said that the European Parliament’s silence and failure to address Israeli human rights violations in the occupied territories reflects its policy of double standards and unbalanced approach.
The Arab legislative body said it was surprised by the unfound stances taken by the European Parliament over the human rights situation in Arab countries, accusing it of acting to serve political purposes under the pretext of human rights.
The Arab Parliament renewed its strong condemnation of Israel’s brutal attacks against the Palestinians, and called on the UN Security Council to immediately act to put an end to all Israeli violations.


Singapore to shut schools as coronavirus cases rise

Singapore to shut schools as coronavirus cases rise
Updated 16 May 2021

Singapore to shut schools as coronavirus cases rise

Singapore to shut schools as coronavirus cases rise
  • All primary, secondary and junior colleges will shift to full home-based learning from Wednesday

SINGAPORE: Singapore will shut most schools from Wednesday after the city-state reported the highest number of local COVID-19 infections in months, including several that were unlinked, according to authorities on Sunday.
All primary, secondary and junior colleges will shift to full home-based learning from Wednesday until the end of the school term on May 28.
“Some of these (virus) mutations are much more virulent, and they seem to attack the younger children,” said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing.
On Sunday, Singapore confirmed 38 locally transmitted COVID-19 cases, the highest daily number since mid-September, of which 18 are currently unlinked.
Singapore has reported more than 61,000 virus cases, with the bulk linked to outbreaks last year in foreign worker dormitories, and 31 deaths. Sunday’s new cases were the highest number of local infections outside of the dormitories in a year.
“The sharp rise in the number of community cases today requires us to significantly reduce our movements and interactions in the coming days,” Chan added.
The Asian trade and financial hub of 5.7 million people had until recently been reporting almost zero or single-digit daily infections locally for months.
Though Singapore’s daily cases are still only a fraction of the numbers being reported among its Southeast Asian neighbors, infections have been increasing in recent weeks. From Sunday, the government implemented its strictest curbs on gatherings and public activities since a lockdown last year.
Over a fifth of the country’s population has completed the two-dose vaccination regimen with vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Authorities will invite people under 45 years of age to receive shots from the second half of May.
The speed of Singapore’s inoculation program is being limited by the pace of vaccine supply arrivals. Experts are studying whether to give one dose of the vaccine and extend the interval between shots, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung.
The government is also working on plans to vaccinate children below 16 years once regulatory approval is granted.


Pro-Palestinian protests held throughout Italy

Pro-Palestinian protests held throughout Italy
Updated 16 May 2021

Pro-Palestinian protests held throughout Italy

Pro-Palestinian protests held throughout Italy
  • Dockworkers refuse to load shipment of weapons headed for Israel
  • Imam tells Arab News: ‘Israeli army committing crimes against humanity against a people whose only fault is asking for freedom, justice’

ROME: Thousands of people gathered over the weekend in squares in Italy’s main cities and elsewhere in the country to express solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Thousands gathered in Piazza dell’Esquilino, a huge square in Rome, waving Palestinian flags and chanting slogans of support.

“We want to send a message to the world about the crimes committed by the Israeli occupation authorities against the Palestinian people, and the policy of racial discrimination, and expansion at the expense of the property and rights of the Palestinian people,” Youssef Salman, a Palestinian community leader in Rome, told Arab News.

Meanwhile, at the port in the city of Livorno, dockworkers belonging to an independent trade union organization refused to load weapons on a cargo ship after discovering that they were headed for Israel.

“Once we knew that containers with weapons and explosives headed for the Israeli port of Ashdod were loaded on the … ship, we decided not to carry on with our work,” said a spokesman for the Unione Sindacale di Base.

“We have no intention to facilitate the transportation of weapons and explosives that will be used to kill the Palestinian people, who are suffering so much and mourn hundreds of innocent civilian victims, including many children.”

Demonstrators also gathered in the city of Vicenza near Venice. “We want people to understand the situation in our land,” Rami Ayoub, a member of the local Palestinian community, told Arab News.

People also demonstrated at the Piazza San Lorenzo in the city of Florence. (Supplied)

He said in Vicenza the Palestinian community is small — about 40 people — “but here there are people of many nationalities, and many Italians, in solidarity with us. We’re so grateful for this.”

He added: “Israel says we’re terrorists, but we’re only defending our land, our homes, our rights. We want to make people understand the difference between Israelis and Jews: It’s the state of Israel that occupies us — it’s not a question of religion but of politics.”

People also demonstrated at the Piazza San Lorenzo in the city of Florence. “The Israeli army is committing crimes against humanity in Palestine, against a people whose only fault is asking for freedom and justice,” Izzedin Elzir, the imam of Florence, told Arab News. “We’re all here to say clearly that we’re on their side, that we’re with them.”

In his speech to the crowd, flying a huge Palestinian flag that was then spread over the steps of the 14th-century basilica, Elzir called for the “support of the politicians for the Palestinian people.”

Thousands marched in the center of the city of Turin. Arabic music was played from speakers and the slogan “Free free Palestine” was chanted.

The island of Lipari, which has no more than 8,000 inhabitants, also hosted a demonstration in the square facing its port.

“As in other cities of Italy, we too wanted to express our indignation at the ethnic cleansing taking place in East Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank, and the bombing of Gaza,” Paolo Arena, president of local NGO Magazzino di Mutuo Soccorso, told Arab News.

“Once again, we find ourselves reading disconcerting news about Israel’s heinous attacks against the entire population of Gaza,” he added.

“We join all those who condemn without hesitation this new violence, and the death of defenseless and innocent civilians.”


Pope Francis denounces violence between Israel, Hamas

Pope Francis denounces violence between Israel, Hamas
Updated 16 May 2021

Pope Francis denounces violence between Israel, Hamas

Pope Francis denounces violence between Israel, Hamas
  • Pope Francis prays for peace, calm and international help to open a path of dialogue

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis has denounced the “unacceptable” spiral of violence between Israel and the Palestinians, saying the deaths in particular of children was a “sign that they don’t want to build the future but want to destroy it.”
Francis prayed for peace, calm and international help to open a path of dialogue during his Sunday blessing, delivered from his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s Square.
The pope said: “I ask myself: this hatred and vendetta, what will it bring? Do we truly think that we can build peace by destroying the other?”
In unusually pointed comments, Francis added: “In the name of God, who created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity and are called to live as brothers, I appeal for calm” and an end to the violence.
Israeli airstrikes have been pounding Gaza City for days as heavy fighting has broken out between Israel and the territory’s militant Hamas rulers. The Gaza Health Ministry said 10 women and eight children were among the 26 people killed in Sunday’s airstrikes, with another 50 people wounded in the attack.