Sudanese in Israel fear being returned after normalization

Sudanese in Israel fear being returned after normalization
Sudanese asylum seeker and head of the African Students Organization in Israel Usumain Baraka speaks during an interview in Tel Aviv. (AFP)
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Updated 29 October 2020

Sudanese in Israel fear being returned after normalization

Sudanese in Israel fear being returned after normalization
  • Israel counts a Sudanese population of around 6,000, mostly asylum seekers

TEL AVIV: Sudanese asylum seekers living in Israel fear being kicked out once ties are normalized between the two countries, though some hope their presence will be seen as an advantage.

Technically at war with Israel for decades, Sudan on Friday became the third Arab country this year to announce it is normalizing ties with the Jewish state, following the UAE and Bahrain in August.

But since the announcement, members of the Sudanese community in Israel have been “very afraid” of being sent back, said 26-year-old Barik Saleh, a Sudanese asylum seeker who lives in a suburb of Tel Aviv.

Israel counts a Sudanese population of around 6,000, mostly asylum seekers.

Thousands of others left or were forced to return after Sudan split in 2011 when South Sudan won its independence — only for the fledgling country to plunge into civil war.

Some of the Sudanese — often labeled as “infiltrators” for crossing illegally into Israeli territory before being granted permission to stay — were minors when they arrived.

They are not always allowed to work, and they cannot gain Israeli citizenship.

Saleh, who grew up in West Darfur, was just nine when his family fled war to neighboring Chad.

“My parents are in a refugee camp,” said the young man, who arrived after journeying through Libya and Egypt, and has lived in Israel for 13 years.

“I will be the first one for normalization,” he said.

“But if I will be deported from here, then I will be in 100 percent danger,” he added.

Former President Omar Bashir oversaw Sudan’s civil war in the Darfur region from 2003. Some 300,000 people died in the conflict and 2.5 million were forced from their homes. Bashir, in detention in Khartoum, is wanted by the International Criminal Court over charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

“We are here because it is not safe to go back to Sudan yet,” said 31-year-old Monim Haroon, who comes from a stronghold region of Darfuri rebel leader Abdelwahid Nour’s Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) faction.

“The reason why we are here in Israel is not because of the lack of a diplomatic relationship between Sudan and Israel, but because of the genocide and ethnic cleansing that we went through,” Haroon said.

Sudan’s transitional government, in place after the fall of Bashir in 2019, signed a landmark peace deal with an alliance of rebel groups earlier this month.

But Nour’s rebel faction was not one of them.

Some of those in power in Sudan today were also in control under Bashir.

They include Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, vice president of Sudan’s ruling transitional sovereign council.

He heads the feared Rapid Support Forces, long accused by human rights groups of committing widespread abuses in Sudan’s Darfur provinces.

“For me it is very dangerous,” said Haroon, who was previously head of Nour’s office in Israel.

“Unless Abdelwahid signs a peace agreement, I cannot go back.”

In Neve Shaanan, a suburb of Tel Aviv known for its asylum seeker community, stalls and restaurants offer Sudanese food, including a version of the popular bean dish “foul,” served with grated cheese.

Usumain Baraka, a smartly dressed 26-year-old who works nearby, has finished a master’s degree in public policy at a university in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv.

Like Saleh, he too was nine when he fled Darfur for Chad, where his mother still lives in a refugee camp.

“They (militiamen) killed my dad and my big brother, and they took everything we had in the village,” Baraka said.

“At one point I had two options: To go back to Darfur to fight for a rebel group, or leave the camp and try to have a normal life.”

While the young men who AFP spoke to expressed fear that their presence in Israel would be at risk under the normalization agreement, some said they would like the Jewish state to see it as an asset rather than a burden.

Haroon said Sudanese in Israel could be a “bridge” between the countries, not only in the private sector, but also to help build understanding between the two peoples.

“I hope the Israeli government will see this potential asset, the important role that we can bring promoting the interest of the two countries,” he said.

Both Sudan and Israel have said in recent days that migration would be one of the issues on the agenda during upcoming meetings on bilateral cooperation.

“Israel is my second home,” said asylum seeker Saleh. “There is no language that I speak better than Hebrew, even my own local language.”

But Jean-Marc Liling, an Israeli lawyer specialized in asylum issues, warned that with the normalization announcement, the return of Sudanese asylum seekers would likely be on the government’s radar.

“The first thing that comes to the government’s mind is: we’ll be able to send back the ‘infiltrators’,” Liling said.


Families gather at Tehran cemetery in memory of 1988 massacre

In 1988, thousands of PMOI supporters were summarily executed by Tehran, in a mass killing that the UN and rights groups have said constituted crimes against humanity. (People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran/File Photo)
In 1988, thousands of PMOI supporters were summarily executed by Tehran, in a mass killing that the UN and rights groups have said constituted crimes against humanity. (People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran/File Photo)
Updated 6 min 47 sec ago

Families gather at Tehran cemetery in memory of 1988 massacre

In 1988, thousands of PMOI supporters were summarily executed by Tehran, in a mass killing that the UN and rights groups have said constituted crimes against humanity. (People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran/File Photo)
  • UN has branded Iranian regime’s mass killings of dissidents as crime against humanity
  • International commission of inquiry should be set up, opposition figure tells Arab News

LONDON: Families of Iranian political prisoners executed by the regime in 1988 have gathered outside a Tehran cemetery to commemorate their lost loved ones and call for accountability over the killings.

The cemetery in the neighborhood of Khavaran holds the unmarked mass graves of an unknown number of supporters of Iranian opposition groups.

On Thursday, families of slain members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) carried pictures of their murdered loved ones, laid flowers at the unmarked graves and chanted slogans against Ebrahim Raisi, head of the country’s judiciary.

In 1988, thousands of PMOI supporters were summarily executed by Tehran, in a mass killing that the UN and rights groups have said constituted crimes against humanity. Then-Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini issued a religious edict ordering their execution.

Tehran has been accused of trying to hide evidence of the killings, for example by repurposing mass graves used for execution victims and instead forcing ethnic minorities to bury their dead in them.

However, momentum for accountability over the killings has been steadily growing. On May 4, more than 1,100 family members of those murdered penned an open letter urging the UN, US and EU to take urgent action to prevent the destruction of the graves and evidence of the killings, and to hold the regime accountable.

Furthermore, over 150 former UN officials, human rights and legal experts called on UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to open an independent inquiry into the killings.

Ali Safavi, a member of umbrella opposition group the National Council of Resistance of Iran — of which the PMOI is a part — told Arab News that it is “imperative” that Bachelet “establishes an international commission of inquiry into the 1988 massacre.” 

This “would enable investigators to go to Iran and visit Khavaran cemetery and mass graves in other Iranian cities as part of their investigation,” Safavi added.

“Those directly involved in the massacre, including current officials such as Raisi and Justice Minister Alireza Avaei, must be held accountable.”

Safavi said the protesters’ focus on Raisi is unsurprising given his outspoken and ongoing support for the killings, as well as his ascension through the regime’s upper echelons.

Rumors continue to circulate that Raisi will soon throw his hat in the ring for June’s presidential election.

Safavi said since becoming head of the judiciary in 2019, Raisi has directed the execution of at least 500 people — including, allegedly, Navid Afkari, the champion wrestler hung for participating in anti-regime protests.

Amnesty International said under Raisi, the judiciary has used the death penalty “as a weapon of political repression against dissident protesters and members of ethnic minority groups.”


Critical weeks ahead for Turkish ties with EU, Greece

Critical weeks ahead for Turkish ties with EU, Greece
Updated 32 min 39 sec ago

Critical weeks ahead for Turkish ties with EU, Greece

Critical weeks ahead for Turkish ties with EU, Greece
  • Twin Brussels summits in June look to cool tensions between regional rivals
  • Ankara’s Europe pivot an “opportunistic” move amid struggling economy, experts say

ATHENS: The month of June could prove crucial for the mid-term and long-term future of Greek-Turkish relations, but also for the next steps in Ankara’s relationship with the EU.
The “twin summits” of NATO and the EU in Brussels, to be held on June 14 and June 24-25, respectively, could help clear the air between the two rivals and prepare the ground for a more positive agenda.
Athens and Ankara are exploring the possibility for a bilateral meeting between Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the NATO summit.
However, nothing has been agreed yet, and a planned visit by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to Athens in May will reveal if there is enough common ground for such a meeting.
But Erdogan will also meet with his US counterpart President Joe Biden on June 14, and the bilateral agenda will cover heavyweight issues, ranging from the S-400 missile system to the Eastern Mediterranean dispute.
A few days later, EU leaders will deal once more with the bloc’s relationship with Turkey.
Since the last European Council in March, member states decided to follow a dual-track approach toward Ankara, aiming to promote a positive agenda on issues such as the upgrade of the Customs Union and the EU-Turkey Statement on Migration.
In parallel, the EU is monitoring Turkey’s behavior toward Greece and Cyprus, following last summer’s escalation by Ankara when it sent seismic vessels in maritime areas close to Greek islands, violating the sovereign rights of both states and sparking regional tensions. 
Is there hope for a more sustained and viable relationship in the region?
“There is an obvious de-escalation with regard to Turkey’s illegal activities in disputed waters, but Ankara continues its provocative rhetoric, threatening Greece on a regular basis,” said Konstantinos Filis, executive director of the Institute of International Relations at Athens’ Panteion University.
He added: “The core problem, though, is that despite diplomatic efforts and the resumption of exploratory talks, the two sides have avoided dealing with the fundamental problems that have negatively affected bilateral ties for decades. But at the same time, it is convenient to demonstrate that tensions are under control.”
Many experts believe that Ankara wants closer ties with the EU, even for opportunistic reasons, as the Turkish economy is facing increasing problems.
“The upcoming European summit is expected to once again examine relations with Turkey. Sanctions may be out of the question, but I do not foresee any drastic development in refreshing the EU-Turkey agenda,” said Filis.
“The Biden factor is certainly crucial. His insistence on human rights and democracy rendered it imperative that the Europeans follow. So, in such an environment, and given Ankara’s constant retreat from European values, unleashing the so-called positive agenda will not be an easy task. The EU needs a more solid approach on behalf of Turkey. The revision of the joint statement of March 2016 addressing the migration crisis might be considered,” he added.
George Pagoulatos, a politics professor and director of prominent Greek think tank ELIAMEP, said: “The European Council on March 25 outlined its readiness to positively engage with Turkey in a ‘phased, proportionate and reversible manner,’ subject to the conditions set out in previous European Council conclusions.
“There are a number of ‘low-politics’ areas of cooperation, including public health, climate, counterterrorism and migration management. This dual approach is the right framework; a positive agenda highly conditional on Turkey’s actions, given its track record of rule of law violations and provocations in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
Could an upgrade of the Customs Union deliver a win-win solution for all sides? “The Customs Union is the only institutionalized instrument that remains important for both the EU and Turkey, given the density of trade relations,” Pagoulatos said.
“There is a strong incentive, especially on Turkey’s part, to update the Customs Union. This in itself offers an opportunity to strengthen political and economic ties in EU relations with Turkey,” he added.


Jordanian police disperse protesters near border with West Bank

Jordanian police disperse protesters near border with West Bank
Updated 55 min 50 sec ago

Jordanian police disperse protesters near border with West Bank

Jordanian police disperse protesters near border with West Bank
  • Witnesses said police fired tear gas and shot into the air to halt about 500 young demonstrators
  • Several thousand demonstrators also took to the streets after Friday prayers in Amman chanting anti-Israel slogans

KARAMEH: Jordanian riot police on Friday forcibly dispersed hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters trying to reach a bridge that leads to the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Witnesses said police fired tear gas and shot into the air to halt about 500 young demonstrators, who broke away from the scheduled route of a march near the borders organized to protest Israeli attacks against Palestinians.
The demonstrators were within five km (three miles) of the King Hussein Bridge, known in Israel as the Allenby Bridge, in the Jordan Valley opposite the Palestinian city of Jericho in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Witnesses said about 2,000 people took part in the protest, arranged by a mix of opposition parties and tribal groups in a kingdom where passions are running high since the escalation of violence between Palestinians and Israel.
“Oh King Abdullah, open the borders,” protesters chanted.
Several thousand demonstrators also took to the streets after Friday prayers from the main Husseini mosque in central Amman chanting anti-Israel slogans.
They called for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador and scrapping of an unpopular peace treaty with Israel.
Hundreds of mosques held prayers for those killed in Gaza.
Most of Jordan’s 10 million citizens are of Palestinian origin. They or their parents were expelled or fled to Jordan in the fighting that accompanied the creation of Israel in 1948.
They have close family ties with their kin on the other side of the Jordan River in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, both captured by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.


Palestinians flee as Israeli artillery pounds northern Gaza

Palestinians flee as Israeli artillery pounds northern Gaza
Updated 14 May 2021

Palestinians flee as Israeli artillery pounds northern Gaza

Palestinians flee as Israeli artillery pounds northern Gaza
  • Israel has massed troops along the border and called up 9,000 reservists as fighting intensifies with the Islamic militant group Hamas
  • As Israel and Hamas plunged closer to all-out war despite international efforts at a cease-fire, communal violence in Israel erupted for a fourth night

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip: Palestinians grabbed their children and belongings and fled neighborhoods on the outskirts of Gaza City on Friday as Israel unleashed a heavy barrage of artillery fire and airstrikes, killing a family of 6 in their home. Israel said it was clearing a network of militant tunnels ahead of a possible ground invasion.
Israel has massed troops along the border and called up 9,000 reservists as fighting intensifies with the Islamic militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. Palestinian militants have fired some 1,800 rockets, and the Israeli military has launched more than 600 airstrikes, toppling at least three high-rise apartment buildings, and has shelled some areas with tanks stationed near the frontier.
As Israel and Hamas plunged closer to all-out war despite international efforts at a cease-fire, communal violence in Israel erupted for a fourth night. Jewish and Arab mobs clashed in the flashpoint town of Lod, even after Israel dispatched additional security forces.
The Gaza Health Ministry says the toll from the fighting has risen to 119 killed, including 31 children and 19 women, with 830 wounded. The Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant groups have confirmed 20 deaths in their ranks, though Israel says that number is much higher. Seven people have been killed in Israel, including a 6-year-old boy and a soldier.
Palestinians living outside Gaza City, near the northern and eastern frontiers with Israel, fled the intense artillery bombardment Friday. Families arrived at the UN-run schools in the city in pick-up trucks, on donkeys and by foot, hauling pillows and pans, blankets and bread.
“We were planning to leave our homes at night, but Israeli jets bombarded us so we had to wait until the morning,” said Hedaia Maarouf, who fled with her extended family of 19 people, including 13 children. “We were terrified for our children, who were screaming and shaking.”
In the northern Gaza Strip, Rafat Tanani, his pregnant wife and four children, aged 7 and under, were killed after an Israeli warplane reduced their four-story apartment building to rubble, residents said. Four strikes hit the building at 11 p.m., just before the family was going to sleep, Rafat’s brother Fadi said. The building’s owner and his wife were also killed.
“It was a massacre,” said Sadallah Tanani, another relative. “My feelings are indescribable.”
Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said tanks stationed near the border fired 50 rounds. It was part of a large operation that also involved airstrikes and was aimed at destroying tunnels beneath Gaza City used by militants to evade surveillance and airstrikes that the military refers to as “the Metro.”
“As always, the aim is to strike military targets and to minimize collateral damage and civilian casualties,” he said. “Unlike our very elaborate efforts to clear civilian areas before we strike high-rise or large buildings inside Gaza, that wasn’t feasible this time.”
The strikes came after Egyptian mediators rushed to Israel for cease-fire talks that showed no signs of progress. Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations were leading the truce efforts.
The fighting broke out late Monday when Hamas fired a long-range rocket at Jerusalem in support of Palestinian protests there against the policing of a flashpoint holy site and efforts by Jewish settlers to evict dozens of Palestinian families from their homes.
Since then, Israel has attacked hundreds of targets in Gaza, causing earth-shaking explosions in densely populated areas. Of the 1,800 rockets Gaza militants have fired, more than 400 fell short or misfired, according to the military.
The rockets have brought life in parts of southern Israel to a standstill, and several barrages have targeted the seaside metropolis of Tel Aviv, some 70 kilometers (45 miles) from Gaza.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue the operation, saying in a video statement that Israel would “extract a very heavy price from Hamas.”
In Washington, US President Joe Biden said he spoke with Netanyahu about calming the fighting but also backed the Israeli leader by saying “there has not been a significant overreaction.”
He said the goal now is to “get to a point where there is a significant reduction in attacks, particularly rocket attacks.” He called the effort “a work in progress.”
Israel has come under heavy international criticism for civilian casualties during three previous wars in Gaza, which is home to more than 2 million Palestinians. It says Hamas is responsible for endangering civilians by placing military infrastructure in civilian areas and launching rockets from them.
Hamas showed no signs of backing down. It fired its most powerful rocket, the Ayyash, nearly 200 kilometers (120 miles) into southern Israel on Thursday. The rocket landed in the open desert but briefly disrupted flight traffic at the southern Ramon airport. Hamas has also launched two drones that Israel said it quickly shot down.
Hamas military spokesman Abu Obeida said the group was not afraid of a ground invasion, which would be a chance “to increase our catch” of Israeli soldiers.
The current eruption of violence began a month ago in Jerusalem. A focal point of clashes was Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, on a hilltop compound revered by Jews and Muslims. Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians want east Jerusalem, which includes sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, to be the capital of their future state.
The violent clashes between Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem and other mixed cities across Israel has added a new layer of volatility to the conflict not seen in more than two decades.
The violence continued overnight into Friday. A Jewish man was shot and seriously wounded in Lod, the epicenter of the troubles, and Israeli media said a second Jewish man was shot. In the Tel Aviv neighborhood of Jaffa, an Israeli soldier was attacked by a group of Arabs and hospitalized in serious condition.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said some 750 suspects have been arrested since the communal violence began earlier this week. He said police had clashed overnight with individuals in Lod and Tel Aviv who hurled rocks and firebombs at them.
The fighting deepened a political crisis that has sent Israel careening through four inconclusive elections in just two years. After March elections, Netanyahu failed to form a government coalition. Now his political rivals have three weeks to try to do so.
Those efforts have been greatly complicated by the fighting. His opponents include a broad range of parties that have little in common. They would need the support of an Arab party, whose leader has said he cannot negotiate while Israel is fighting in Gaza.

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Arab states condemn Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia

Arab states condemn Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia
Updated 14 May 2021

Arab states condemn Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia

Arab states condemn Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia
  • The Arab Parliament said the Houthi’s attack is a disregard to international human rights
  • Saudi air defenses intercepted and destroyed eight drones and three ballistic missiles targeting Saudi Arabia on Thursday

DUBAI: The Arab Parliament, Jordan and Bahrain have condemned the Houthi militia’s attacks on Saudi Arabia, state agencies have reported.
The Arab Parliament said in a statement that the militia’s attack, which was carried out during the first day of Eid Al-Fitr, was inconsistent with values and international norms and is a disregard to international human rights.
Bahrain also condemned the Houthi militia’s launch of ballistic missiles and targeting Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, Jordan has condemned the attack and said any threat to Saudi Arabia is a threat to the security and stability of the entire region.
Saudi air defenses intercepted and destroyed eight drones and three ballistic missiles targeting Saudi Arabia, the Arab Coalition supporting Yemen’s legitimate government said on Thursday.
In a statement announced on Twitter, the coalition said the UAVs and missiles were launched by the Iran-back Houthi militia in Yemen.
The new attacks came as fighting for Yemen’s strategic Marib city continued and despite calls by the UN for the Houthis to halt the violence.