Europe unites at UN against West Bank annexation

Europe unites at UN against West Bank annexation
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In this file photo Nickolay Mladenov, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority, speaks during an interview following the INSS conference, on January 30, 2018 in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv. (AFP)
Europe unites at UN against West Bank annexation
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A Palestinian muezzin reads the Holy Qur’an in an almost empty mosque in Gaza City during the first Friday prayers of the holy month. (AFP)
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Updated 25 April 2020

Europe unites at UN against West Bank annexation

Europe unites at UN against West Bank annexation
  • The UK is particularly concerned that demolitions have continued, including of temporary health centers, which weaken the capacity of Palestinians to respond to COVID-19

LONDON: The UK and the EU joined the UN in speaking out against Israeli annexation of the occupied West Bank on Thursday.
As part of a video briefing of the UN Security Council, UN Special Middle East Envoy Nickolay Mladenov warned against any such move, saying: “Annexation of parts of the West Bank would constitute a serious violation of international law, deal a devastating blow to the two-state solution, close the door to a renewal of negotiations, and threaten efforts to advance regional peace.”
The intervention comes after the striking of a coalition government agreement on Monday between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of Likud, and Benny Gantz, head of the Blue and White bloc, bringing to an end months of political stalemate featuring three elections in just 12 months.
Netanyahu, in a bid to win the support of pro-settlement voters, had placed annexation of the Jordan Valley and other parts of the West Bank squarely on the policy table as part of his manifesto for election.
The agreement with Gantz has now solidified that position, with July 1 slated as the date legislation proposing annexations will advance.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday said the White House welcomed the coalition agreement, adding that annexing parts of the West Bank is “ultimately Israel’s decision to make.”
Representatives from the UK, France, Germany and Brussels all set out their opposition to any such move.
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, wrote to UN Security Council ahead of the meeting, saying: “The European Union’s position on the status of the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 remains unchanged … The EU does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the occupied West Bank.”
James Roscoe, acting UK deputy permanent representative to the UN, spoke about the dangers of the Israeli government continuing on the path toward further annexation, especially amid a global health crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“During this fragile period, we call on both parties to avoid any provocative action, which might undermine the cooperation that is so critical. This includes incitement, settlement activity, demolitions and settler violence,” Roscoe told the council.

We are deeply concerned by reports that the new Israeli government coalition has reached an agreement which paves the way for annexation of parts of the West Bank.

James Roscoe, Acting UK deputy permanent representative to UN

“The UK is particularly concerned that demolitions have continued, including of temporary health centers, which weaken the capacity of Palestinians to respond to COVID-19. Under international humanitarian law, an occupying power has the duty of ensuring and maintaining public health and hygiene in the occupied territory to the fullest extent of the means available to it,” he said.
“We are deeply concerned by reports that the new Israeli government coalition has reached an agreement which paves the way for annexation of parts of the West Bank,” he added.
“The UK position is clear: Any unilateral moves towards annexation of parts of the West Bank by Israel would be damaging to efforts to restart peace negotiations and would be contrary to international law.”
France’s Ambassador to the UN Nicolas de Rivière warned the UN that annexation “would not pass unchallenged and shall not be overlooked in our relationship with Israel.”
No fewer than 220 senior members of Israel’s security services signed a full-page advert published in various Israeli newspapers in April, warning the country’s MPs of the dangers of unilateral annexation of parts of the West Bank.
They said such a move would throw Israel’s peace treaties with neighbors Egypt and Jordan into jeopardy.
On Wednesday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said: “No one should delude themselves that they can take advantage of the fact that the world is busy with the coronavirus crisis to violate our rights. We will not allow anyone to violate our rights.”


Egypt completes concrete work on tallest tower in Africa

Egypt completes concrete work on tallest tower in Africa
Updated 29 min 55 sec ago

Egypt completes concrete work on tallest tower in Africa

Egypt completes concrete work on tallest tower in Africa
  • The central business district of the NAC will feature 20 towers, including the 400-meter Iconic Tower
  • The 80-floor Iconic Tower project covers an area of 65,000 square meters

CAIRO: Egypt has announced the completion of the concrete work at the Iconic Tower skyscraper — the tallest tower in Africa — in the New Administrative Capital (NAC), east of Cairo.

“This represents a historic day in the history of modern Egypt and serves as a documentation of the growth the country is witnessing,” Minister of Housing Assem Al-Gazzar said at a function celebrating the feat on Thursday.

The project’s investments are estimated at $3 billion.

The project is being jointly implemented by the Egyptian Ministry of Housing, represented by the New Urban Communities Authority, and the China State Construction Engineering Corporation, one of the largest contracting companies in the world.

Al-Gazzar said the political leadership is taking full interest in the development projects at the NAC.

He said the Iconic Tower project will serve as a turning point in the history of urbanization in Egypt and that next week a new project will be launched in the city of El-Alamein alongside several new towers, “which confirms the extent of cooperation between Egypt and China.”

He added that several further projects would be inaugurated in the coming period.

Al-Gazzar thanked China and the Chinese company for their “great flexibility with the Egyptian government in implementing this huge project.”

The central business district of the NAC will feature 20 towers, including the 400-meter Iconic Tower.

Ahmed Al-Banna, project manager from the company Dar Al-Handasa, said the construction took 800 non-stop working days, adding that the pandemic did not halt the work.

He said the work was carried out in three phases, after which the concrete strength was installed, which accelerated work inside the tower.

The second phase, from the third floor to the 30th floor, took about 100 workdays, while during the third phase, one floor took about six workdays. The number of engineers, technicians and workers in the group amounted to 190.

The 80-floor tower project covers an area of 65,000 square meters.


Mutual desire between Cairo, Doha to restore ties, says Egyptian foreign minister

Mutual desire between Cairo, Doha to restore ties, says Egyptian foreign minister
Updated 17 June 2021

Mutual desire between Cairo, Doha to restore ties, says Egyptian foreign minister

Mutual desire between Cairo, Doha to restore ties, says Egyptian foreign minister
  • Sameh Shoukry said that during his visit to Doha, he discussed the many issues that had accumulated during the years in which Qatar was boycotted by the Anti-Terror Quartet
  • Shoukry said that many of the issues “were dealt with appropriately” and that both countries affirmed a mutual desire to restore “brotherhood and solidarity relations”

CAIRO: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Thursday that his recent visit to Doha, where he met Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, inspired a mutual desire to restore strong relations between the two countries.

In a press conference in Cairo with Foreign Minister of Luxembourg Jean Asselborn, Shoukry said that during his visit to Doha, he discussed the many issues that had accumulated during the years in which Qatar was boycotted by the Anti-Terror Quartet — Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

On June 5, 2017, the four nations cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, closing borders and airspace and imposing an economic blockade. The decision was based on “Qatar’s embrace of various terrorist and sectarian groups supported by Iran,” as reported earlier.

Shoukry said that many of the issues “were dealt with appropriately” and that both countries affirmed a mutual desire to restore “brotherhood and solidarity relations.”

“I was honored to meet Qatar’s emir. The meeting was positive,” Shoukry said, adding that the emir expressed keenness to reestablish friendly relations and to take into account and resolve all the issues that had previously complicated ties between the two countries.

Shoukry also referred to the consultative meeting of the Arab League Council in Doha at the request of Egypt and Sudan on the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which Ethiopia is building on the Nile River.

A decision was made to support the Egyptian-Sudanese position and their water rights. The need for Ethiopia to be more flexible and reach a binding legal agreement on the issue of filling the dam was also addressed.

Shoukry said that Egypt wishes to reach a solution on the issue of the dam through negotiations.

For 10 years, Cairo has been trying to reach an agreement that takes into consideration common property rights in the Nile River, Shoukry said. He stressed that the Ethiopian people have a right to development but must exercise it without harming downstream countries Egypt and Sudan.

He said that Cairo’s goal is to show flexibility and provide an opportunity for the “Ethiopian brothers” to improve their standard of living.

“We have not yet sensed a political will from Addis Ababa to sign the agreement that was drafted in Washington … Ethiopia continues to be intransigent and repudiates agreements,” he added.


Cars erupt in flames in Beirut airport carpark, stockpiled petrol likely cause, local media report

Cars erupt in flames in Beirut airport carpark, stockpiled petrol likely cause, local media report
With petrol in short supply, residents have regularly been lined up for hours over the past two weeks to fill their tanks. (Twitter)
Updated 17 June 2021

Cars erupt in flames in Beirut airport carpark, stockpiled petrol likely cause, local media report

Cars erupt in flames in Beirut airport carpark, stockpiled petrol likely cause, local media report
  • The fire is under investigation, but Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces could not be reached for comment.

DUBAI: Thick plumes of black smoke filled the air as a blaze ripped through three cars in the car park of Beirut’s international airport on Thursday.

Initial reports in local media suggested the cause of the fire was due to petrol stored inside one of the vehicles.

It is thought that the fuel was likely stored in several cans being used to stockpile petrol which has recently become a hot commodity in Lebanon, due to shortages.

Reports suggest the fuel somehow ignited and spread to two other cars parked nearby – although Arab News has been unable to independently verify this.

No injuries were reported, an emergency worker stationed at the airport told Arab News.

The fire is under investigation, but Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces could not be reached for comment.

Petrol stations across Lebanon have been running on low supply for weeks as the central bank struggles to meet subsidy needs.

With petrol in short supply, residents have regularly been lined up for hours over the past two weeks to fill their tanks.

Public officials have advised people not to stockpile petrol in take-home containers, which have caused a spike in accidental fires.

Last month, a residential building in a Beirut suburb caught fire after a resident hoarded the attractive commodity. 


Israeli officer charged in killing of autistic Palestinian

Israeli officer charged in killing of autistic Palestinian
Updated 17 June 2021

Israeli officer charged in killing of autistic Palestinian

Israeli officer charged in killing of autistic Palestinian
  • The officer was charged with reckless manslaughter
  • Eyad Hallaq, 32, was fatally shot just inside the Old City’s Lion’s Gate on May 30, 2020

JERUSALEM: Israeli prosecutors on Thursday charged a border police officer with reckless manslaughter in the deadly shooting of an autistic Palestinian man in Jerusalem’s Old City last year.

The indictment came just over a year after the shooting of Eyad Hallaq. Hallaq’s family had previously criticized Israeli authorities' investigation into Eyad's killing, and had called for much tougher charges.

The officer, who remains unidentified in the indictment submitted to the Jerusalem District Court on Thursday, was charged with reckless manslaughter, and if convicted could face up to 12 years in prison.

Hallaq, 32, was fatally shot just inside the Old City’s Lion’s Gate on May 30, 2020, as he was on his way to the special-needs institution that he attended. The officer's commander, who was also present during the incident, was not charged.

The area is a frequent site of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, and the Old City’s narrow streets are lined with hundreds of security cameras that are monitored by police. But as the investigation proceeded last summer, prosecutors claimed that none of the cameras in the area had worked, and there was no footage of the incident.

Prosecutors from the police internal investigations department said in a statement that the decision to charge the officer “was made after deep examination of the evidence, examination of all the circumstances of the incident and the claims heard during the officer’s hearing.” They said Hallaq's death was a “serious and unfortunate incident” and that the officer shot him “while he took an unreasonable risk that he would cause his death.”

According to accounts at the time, Hallaq was shot after running away and failing to heed calls to stop. Two members of Israel’s paramilitary Border Police then chased Hallaq into a garbage room and shot him as he cowered next to a bin.

The Justice Ministry said in a statement in October, when prosecutors recommended charges against the officer, that the wounded Hallaq pointed to a woman he knew and muttered something. The officer then turned to the woman and asked her in Arabic, “Where is the gun?”

She replied, “What gun?” At that point, the officer under investigation fired again at Hallaq.

The woman mentioned in the statement appears to be Hallaq’s teacher, who was with him that morning. At the time of the shooting, she told an Israeli TV station that she had repeatedly called out to police that he was “disabled.”

In the charges filed Thursday, prosecutors described how the accused shot Hallaq in the stomach when he had his back against a wall in a corner, then shot him a second time in the chest while Hallaq was sprawled on the ground injured.

In a statement Thursday, the family’s attorneys called the indictment an “important step,” but said the charge of reckless manslaughter was “not sufficient to achieve even a small part of justice” for Eyad’s death. They criticized prosecutors for what they called “attempts to circumvent the proper legal procedures in order to protect the criminal policeman.”

In cases of attacks against Israeli security forces, police often quickly release security-camera footage to the public. Palestinians and human rights groups say Israel has a poor record of prosecuting cases of police violence against Palestinians.

Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List of Arab parties in Israel’s parliament, responded on Twitter, calling the indictment for reckless manslaughter "an infuriating and denigrating charge.”

Hallaq's shooting drew comparisons to the death of George Floyd in the U.S. and prompted a series of small demonstrations against police violence. The uproar crossed Israeli-Palestinian lines and drew Jewish protesters as well. Israeli leaders expressed regret over the shooting.


Israel keen to establish ties with southeast Asia’s Muslim nations — envoy

Israel keen to establish ties with southeast Asia’s Muslim nations — envoy
Updated 17 June 2021

Israel keen to establish ties with southeast Asia’s Muslim nations — envoy

Israel keen to establish ties with southeast Asia’s Muslim nations — envoy
  • Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei sharply criticized the Israeli attacks on Palestine
  • Israel has embassies in Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and Myanmar, among other countries in Asia

KUALA LUMPUR: Israel is willing to work toward establishing ties with southeast Asia’s Muslim majority nations, its ambassador to Singapore said on Thursday, despite their condemnation in May of Israeli air strikes on Gaza.

The region’s three Muslim-majority states — Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei — sharply criticized the Israeli attacks during 11 days of hostilities in which medics said over 250 Palestinians were killed and 13 people killed in Israel by rockets fired by Hamas and other Islamist militant groups.

Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei had urged the United Nations to step in and stop “the atrocities carried out against the Palestinian people.”

The three countries do not have formal ties with Israel and have repeatedly called for an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and for a two-state solution based on borders before the 1967 Middle East war.

Sagi Karni, Israel’s ambassador to Singapore, said the criticism from the three nations’ leaders was “not honest” and ignored “the true nature of the conflict,” which he said was between Israel and Hamas and not the Palestinian people.

“Hamas is an anti-Semitic organization ... I’m not sure that many of the people participating in social media debates truly understand the radical and fascist nature of Hamas,” he told Reuters in a video interview. Hamas rejects accusations of anti-Semitism.

Karni said Israel acknowledged there were civilian casualties during the 11-day hostilities, but that the only way for any party to have meaningful influence over what happens in the Middle East was by establishing relations with Israel.

“We are willing to talk, we are willing to meet, and the door is open as far as we are concerned. I don’t think it’s so difficult to find us,” he said.

Israel has embassies in Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and Myanmar, among other countries in Asia.

Four Arab states — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco — agreed last year to normalize relations with Israel under US-brokered deals.