UN chief says Israel, Gaza fighting ‘utterly appalling’

UN chief says Israel, Gaza fighting ‘utterly appalling’
People walk past debris in a street at the site of Israeli air strikes, in Gaza City May 16, 2021. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 16 May 2021

UN chief says Israel, Gaza fighting ‘utterly appalling’

UN chief says Israel, Gaza fighting ‘utterly appalling’
  • China voiced regret that the US was blocking a UN Security Council statement on Israeli-Palestinian violence

NEW YORK: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the UN Security Council on Sunday that hostilities in Israel and Gaza were “utterly appalling” and called for an immediate end to fighting.
Opening the 15-member council’s first public meeting on the conflict, Guterres said the United Nations is “actively engaging all sides toward an immediate cease-fire” and called on them “to allow mediation efforts to intensify and succeed.”
The death toll in Gaza jumped to 181 overnight, including 47 children, amid an intensive Israeli air and artillery barrage since the fighting erupted last Monday. Ten people have been killed in Israel, including two children, in thousands of rocket attacks by Hamas and other militant groups.
“Each time Israel hears a foreign leader speak of its right to defend itself it is further emboldened to continue murdering entire families in their sleep,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Malki told the Security Council.
Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan said Israel’s response to indiscriminate attacks by Hamas strictly adhered to international law and that the country was taking “unparalleled steps to prevent civilian casualties.”
“Israel uses its missiles to protect its children. Hamas uses children to protect its missiles,” Erdan said.
The UN Security Council met privately twice last week over the worsening violence, but has so far been unable to agree on a public statement because the United States — a strong ally of Israel — did not believe it would be helpful, diplomats said.
“We call upon the US to shoulder its responsibilities, take a just position, and together with most of the international community support the Security Council in easing the situation,” said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who chaired Sunday’s meeting as China is council president for May.
UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland urged the international community to “take action now to enable the parties to step back from the brink.”
Truce efforts by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations have so far offered no sign of progress. The United States sent an envoy to the region and President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday.
“Concessions must be made as a price to be paid for peace so as to spare people from paying the heavy price of war,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told the Security Council.


Nato summit statement: 'We call on Iran to stop all ballistic missile activities'

Nato summit statement: 'We call on Iran to stop all ballistic missile activities'
Updated 34 min 16 sec ago

Nato summit statement: 'We call on Iran to stop all ballistic missile activities'

Nato summit statement: 'We call on Iran to stop all ballistic missile activities'

BRUSSELS: NATO leaders on Monday agreed to step up their collective defence "against all threats, from all directions," according to their final statement.
NATO said it would adapt to climate-reated security challenges, called on Russia to drop its designation of two allies - the United States and the Czech Republic - as "unfriendly countries" and committed funds to the Kabul airport.
It said it would respond to Russia's growing nuclear arsenal and called on Iran to stop all ballistic missile activities.
In a first for the Western military alliance, it said China was posing "systemic challenges" for the 30-nation pact.


New Israeli government faces tension with Palestinians over Jerusalem

New Israeli government faces tension with Palestinians over Jerusalem
Updated 14 June 2021

New Israeli government faces tension with Palestinians over Jerusalem

New Israeli government faces tension with Palestinians over Jerusalem
  • Jerusalem march by Jewish nationalists poses immediate challenge to the new coalition

JERUSALEM: Veteran leader Benjamin Netanyahu handed over power in Israel on Monday to new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett but remained defiant as the patchwork government faced tensions with Palestinians over a planned Jewish nationalist march.
Minutes after meeting Bennett, Netanyahu repeated a pledge to topple the new government approved on Sunday by a 60-59 vote in parliament.
“It will happen sooner than you think,” Netanyahu, 71, who spent a record 12 straight years in office, said in public remarks to legislators of his right-wing Likud party.
Formation of the alliance of right-wing, centrist, left-wing and Arab parties, with little in common other than a desire to unseat Netanyahu, capped coalition-building efforts after a March 23 election, Israel’s fourth poll in two years.
Instead of the traditional toasts marking Bennett’s entry into the prime minister’s office, Netanyahu held a low-key meeting there with the former defense chief, who heads the nationalist Yamina party, to brief him on government business.
“Sour, grumpy, not stately – Trump-like until the final moment,” Yossi Verter, a political affairs commentator, wrote in the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper.
The government was already facing a sensitive decision over whether to approve a flag-waving procession planned for Tuesday by Jewish nationalists through the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City.
Palestinian factions have called for a “day of rage” against the event, with memories of clashes with Israeli police still fresh from last month in contested Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and in a neighborhood of the city where Palestinians face eviction in a court dispute with Jewish settlers.
“This is a provocation of our people and an aggression against our Jerusalem and our holy sites,” Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said.
The Hamas Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip warned of the possibility of renewed hostilities if the march goes ahead, less than a month after a cease-fire ended 11 days of cross-border hostilities with Israeli forces.
A route change or canceling the procession could expose the Israeli government to accusations from its right-wing opponents of giving Hamas veto power over events in Jerusalem.
Israeli police were due to present their route recommendations to government officials on Monday.
Deputy internal security minister Yoav Segalovitz said past governments had stopped nationalists visiting Muslim sites in times of tension.
“The main thing is to consider what’s the right thing to do at this time,” he told Israel’s Kan radio.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, to be the capital of a state they seek to establish in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem in a move that has not won international recognition after capturing the area in a 1967 war, regards the entire city as its capital.
With any discord among its members a potential threat to its stability, Israel’s new government had hoped to avoid hot-button issues such as policy toward the Palestinians and to focus on domestic reforms and the economy.
“I think the milestone to look out for is the budget,” said Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute. “If within 3-4 months this government will pass the 2021-22 budget then we can expect this government to serve for at least two or three years. Otherwise, the instability will continue.”
Palestinians held out scant hope of a breakthrough in a peace process leading to a state of their own. Talks with Israel collapsed in 2014.
“We don’t see the new government as less bad than the previous ones,” Shtayyeh told the Palestinian cabinet.
Under the coalition deal, Bennett, a 49-year-old Orthodox Jew and tech millionaire who advocates annexing parts of the West Bank, will be replaced as prime minister in 2023 by centrist Yair Lapid, 57, a former television host.
Lapid, widely regarded as the architect of the coalition that brought down Netanyahu, is now foreign minister.


Sudan says it is open to conditional interim deal on Ethiopia dam

Sudan says it is open to conditional interim deal on Ethiopia dam
Updated 14 June 2021

Sudan says it is open to conditional interim deal on Ethiopia dam

Sudan says it is open to conditional interim deal on Ethiopia dam
  • Ethiopia is pinning its hopes of economic development and power generation on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam
  • Sudan and Egypt agreed last week to coordinate efforts to push Ethiopia to negotiate "seriously"

KHARTOUM: Sudan is open to a partial interim agreement on Ethiopia’s multi-billion-dollar dam on the Blue Nile, with specific conditions, Irrigation Minister Yasir Abbas said on Monday.
While Ethiopia is pinning its hopes of economic development and power generation on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), Egypt fears it will imperil its water supply and Sudan is concerned about the impact on its own water flows.
Sudan and Egypt agreed last week to coordinate efforts to push Ethiopia to negotiate “seriously” on an agreement on filling and operating the GERD.
Cairo and Khartoum had been aligned on the need for any agreement to be comprehensive, but Abbas’s comments mark a potential shift in Sudan’s position.
” conditions include the signing-off of everything that has already been agreed on in negotiations, ... provisions to ensure that the talks continue even after the filling scheduled for July, and the negotiations adhering to a definite timetable,” Abbas told a news conference, citing a time crunch.
Ethiopia has said it will begin a second filling of the reservoir behind the dam during the rainy season this summer.
Talks overseen by the African Union, aimed at reaching a binding agreement, have repeatedly stalled.


Bodies of 25 migrants recovered off Yemen after boat capsized

Bodies of 25 migrants recovered off Yemen after boat capsized
Updated 14 June 2021

Bodies of 25 migrants recovered off Yemen after boat capsized

Bodies of 25 migrants recovered off Yemen after boat capsized
  • Fishermen said the bodies were floating in the waters of Ras Al-Ara, an area so rife with human trafficking that local people call it the ‘Gate of Hell’
  • In recent months, dozens of migrants have died in the Bab Al-Mandab strait, a major route for international trade but also for human trafficking

HODEIDAH, Yemen: The bodies of 25 migrants were recovered off Yemen on Monday after the boat that was carrying them capsized with up to 200 people on board, a provincial official told AFP.

Fishermen who found the bodies told AFP that they were floating in the waters of Ras Al-Ara in the southern province of Lahij, an area so rife with human trafficking that local people call it the “Gate of Hell.”

“The boat overturned two days ago and was carrying between 160 and 200 people,” said Jalil Ahmed Ali from the Lahij provincial authority, citing information given by Yemeni smugglers. The fate of the other people on board was unclear.

The UN’s International Organization for Migration confirmed to AFP that a boat sank in the area but said it was still trying to establish the details of the incident.

The fishermen said the victims, found in the Bab Al-Mandab strait that separates Djibouti from Yemen, appeared to be of African origin.

“We found 25 bodies of Africans who drowned when a boat carrying dozens of them sank off the Yemeni shores,” said one of the fishermen.

“We saw the bodies floating in the water 10 miles from the shores of Ras Al-Ara,” added another.

Migrants often find themselves stranded in Yemen with the beaches of Ras Al-Ara being among the areas most targeted by smugglers.

In recent months, dozens of migrants have died in the Bab Al-Mandab strait, a major route for international trade but also for human trafficking.

In April, at least 42 migrants died off Djibouti after the capsize of their boat which had left from Yemen, according to an IOM report. They were likely among those who try to return home after finding themselves stranded or detained.

The IOM reported this month that 5,100 immigrants arrived in Yemen so far this year, while 35,000 traveled in 2020 and 127,000 in 2019 before the outbreak of the coronavirus which suppressed demand for labor in the Gulf.

The UN agency often sends migrants back to their home countries from Yemen. But it said in April that more than 32,000 migrants, mostly from Ethiopia, were still stranded in the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country.


Egypt upholds death penalty for 12 Muslim Brotherhood members

Egypt upholds death penalty for 12 Muslim Brotherhood members
Updated 14 June 2021

Egypt upholds death penalty for 12 Muslim Brotherhood members

Egypt upholds death penalty for 12 Muslim Brotherhood members

CAIRO: An Egyptian court on Monday upheld death sentences for 12 Muslim Brotherhood members, including two senior leaders of the outlawed Islamist movement, judicial sources said.
The court of cassation also reduced sentences for 31 others to life in prison, the sources told AFP, adding that the rulings were final and cannot be appealed.
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood held power briefly for a year before their military ouster in 2013.