Vatican opposes Israeli annexation plan

The Vatican expressed hope that a resolution could soon be found through direct talks over Israel’s plan to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank. (AFP)
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Updated 22 May 2020

Vatican opposes Israeli annexation plan

  • Vatican expresses hope that a resolution could soon be found through direct talks
  • The Vatican has always taken an interest in the Palestinian question

ROME: The Vatican expressed concern over Israel’s plan to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank, saying respect for international law and UN resolutions is an “indispensable element for the two peoples (Israelis and Palestinians) to live side by side.”

The Vatican added that it “is following the situation closely, and expresses concern about any future actions that could further compromise dialogue.”

It expressed hope that a resolution could soon be found through direct talks “so that peace may finally reign in the Holy Land, so beloved by Jews and Christians and Muslims.”     

A senior source in the Vatican told Arab News: “We believe the point has been made quite clearly.”

Afif Safieh, the first Palestinian ambassador to the Vatican, from 1995 to 2005, told Arab News that its statement “reveals great irritation and exasperation toward Israel’s total disregard of international law.”

He said the Vatican has always taken an interest in the Palestinian question because “Palestine is the geographic location of the birth of Jesus, and of the Christian message and its propagation. Then there are Palestinian Christian communities. Even though they’re relatively small in number, they play a very prominent role in Palestinian society.”

Safieh, who was also ambassador to the US, Russia, the UK and the Netherlands, added: “The Vatican believes that the absence of an acceptable solution (to the conflict) and the damaging of diplomatic avenues will be a devastating blow for the future of Christians in the Holy Land. The absence of hope on the horizon is pushing this community to shrink even further, and the Vatican believes that the Holy Land shouldn’t become only a museum of holy places.”

Safieh, who was deputy head of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s delegation to the UN, said: “Since the very beginning, the Vatican took a very principled position, a consistent one, playing a role as the conscience for political decision-makers.”


Flash floods in southern Yemen kill five, displace hundreds

Updated 6 min 30 sec ago

Flash floods in southern Yemen kill five, displace hundreds

  • Five shepherds in the Henan valley were swept away as floods hit farms

AL-MUKALLA: Heavy rains and flash floods hit provinces in southern Yemen on Wednesday and Thursday, killing five people, displacing hundreds of families and isolating villages, local government officials told Arab News.

The heavy rain that began on Wednesday in Yemen's southern province of Hadramout triggered flash floods that killed five shepherds in the Henan valley and damaged farms.

“The five young men went to the valley to bring back their camels and sheep before floods washed them away,” Hesham Al-Souaidi, a local government official, told Arab News by telephone on Thursday.

Local authorities and residents found three bodies and are still searching for the other two.

Al-Souaidi said that flood waters destroyed farms and killed a large number of livestock in the agricultural Wadi Hadramout.

Southern Yemeni provinces have been bracing for the tropical depression since Saturday, when it hit Oman’s southern city of Salalah, as the country’s National Meteorological Center issued alerts, urging Yemenis to avoid traveling during the the storm and to avoid flood courses.

In coastal parts of Hadramout, hundreds of families living near flood channels were forced to flee to after flooding reached unprecedented levels.

Amen Barezaeg, a local government official assigned by the Hadramout governor to lead a relief committee, told Arab News that his team has documented the displacement of 450 families from Mayfa Hajer district alone, adding that the floods damaged roads, farms and isolated many remote areas in the province.

“We are now working on reopening roads to reach the isolated villages. The damage is huge,” he said.

Flash floods displaced dozens of families, washed away hundreds of palm trees and damaged dozens of houses in Hajr town, west of the city of Al-Mukalla, Hadramout province capital.

In some areas of Hadramout, residents said the floods were more destructive than those caused by cyclones over the last five years.

“We have never seen floods like this. Only the floods in 1996 were as strong as these,” Mohammed Bahamel, a journalist from Boroum Mayfa village, west of Al-Mukalla, told Arab News.

Heavy rains triggered flash flooding that wreaked similar havoc in Shabwa, Abyan and Aden, but with no reported casualties, according to local officials.

A government official in Shabwa province told Arab News that the floods washed away farms, isolated villages and damaged several houses.

In Aden, bulldozers were seen clearing mud from the streets as government officials inspected damage caused by the rain.

In April, the internationally recognized government declared Aden, the interim capital of Yemen, a “disaster” area after torrential rains and heavy flooding killed more than 10 people and damaged infrastructure.

Local health officials and residents say that the latest rainfall may set the stage for the spread of the coronavirus and other diseases that killed more than 1,000 people in May.

Wednesday’s floods destroyed the main road that links Hadramout province with Aden, disrupting movement of medical teams and vital medical supplies, including testing kits, officials said.

Meteorologists predicted that the rains would disappear on the weekend.

“Remnants of the tropical depression continue to produce rain across southwest Yemen. Rain will wane over the area on Friday,” Jason Nicholls, a meteorologist for AccuWeather, said on Twitter on Thursday.