France files Israel-Gaza cease-fire resolution at UN: presidency

France files Israel-Gaza cease-fire resolution at UN: presidency
French President Emanuel Macron, right, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi attend video conference with Jordan's King Abdullah II, on screen, to work on a concrete proposal for a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians at the Elysee Palace in Paris, May 18, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 19 May 2021

France files Israel-Gaza cease-fire resolution at UN: presidency

France files Israel-Gaza cease-fire resolution at UN: presidency
  • The three countries agreed on the resolution during a video-conference

UNITED NATIONS: China’s UN ambassador says France is seeking a UN Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militants who control Gaza.
Zhang Jun, the current council president, confirmed that France’s UN Ambassador Nicolas De Riviere informed the council during the third round of closed consultations Tuesday on the conflict that a resolution was being prepared.
The United States has blocked the UN’s most powerful body, which is charged with maintaining international peace and security, from issuing a press statement calling for a halt to the violence, insisting that it would not help diplomatic efforts to end the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Diplomats said the 14 other council members supported the statement proposed by China, Tunisia and Norway. But Security Council press and presidential statements require approval of all 15 members. Resolutions, which are legally binding, do not. They require at least nine “yes” votes and no veto by a permanent member. This would put the United States in the position of voting in favor, abstaining, or vetoing a cease-fire call.
Zhang told reporters that China, Tunisia and Norway “haven’t given up our effort ... and that draft statement stays there on the table, and we will continue to make our effort, making sure that the Security Council is fulfilling its mandate and responsibilities.”
He said US President Joe Biden’s support for a cease-fire is “consistent with what we are proposing in the Security Council,” and China will support “all efforts facilitating the cease-fire, facilitating the ending of the crisis, and the coming back of peace in the Middle East.”
The proposed French resolution, drafted in coordination with Egypt and Jordan, could be circulated to council members as early as Wednesday and put to a quick vote, diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because discussions were private.

UNITED NATIONS — The Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations is challenging the Biden administration to show results from its diplomatic efforts to achieve a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers, pointing to the US repeatedly blocking UN Security Council action on grounds it would interfere with its diplomatic efforts.
Riyad Mansour said “if the Biden administration can exert all of their pressure to bring an end to the aggression against our people, nobody is going to stand in their way.”
But he said the facts speak for themselves, and nobody has succeeded yet, so the US argument that a council statement would interfere with efforts to achieve a cease-fire “does not hold water.”
Mansour spoke at a press conference Tuesday as the Security Council again met in closed consultations at the request of China, Norway and Tunisia who have been pressing for the UN’s most powerful body to respond to the Gaza conflict, now in its second week. But council diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because the discussion was private, said the United States reiterated again that a statement would not help diplomatic efforts despite the 14 other members calling for council action.

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Palestinian militants have been dealt “unexpected blows” in more than a week of Israeli bombardments in the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu’s office released a video of the prime minister speaking in front of an F-16 fighter jet at an air force base in southern Israel on Tuesday.
“I have no doubt that we set them back many years,” Netanyahu said. “I am sure that all our enemies around us see the price we have levied for the aggression against us, and I am sure they will learn the lesson.”

BEIRUT — Scores of Palestinians and Lebanese protesting along the border with Israel threw rocks and climbed the cement wall snaking around the frontier, and drew tear gas from Israeli forces Tuesday.
Lebanon’s National News Agency said five people were injured and others suffered from smoke inhalation. A number of protesters in the Lebanese border village of Adaisseh had climbed the wall to plant Lebanese flags and the yellow flags of the militant Hezbollah group.
It was the fifth straight day of protests along the border as support for the Palestinians swelled against an Israeli military campaign in the Gaza Strip.
Hundreds of protesters also marched in Lebanon’s capital on Tuesday in support of Gaza, which has been under Israeli airstrikes since last week. The march went from Beirut’s refugee camp of Mar Elias toward the city center.
On Monday, rockets fired from Lebanon fell inside Lebanese territory.
Last week, the Israeli army shot and killed one protester along the border. The Lebanese militia Hezbollah later identified the person killed as one of its fighters.

RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinian Health Ministry says a Palestinian protester was killed and dozens more were wounded when gunshots rang out at a large demonstration in the occupied West Bank.
The Israeli military says protesters opened fire at troops at Tuesday’s demonstration. It says two soldiers were shot in the leg and had to be hospitalized. Palestinian protesters often clash with Israeli troops in the West Bank but the demonstrators are rarely armed.
The Health Ministry identified the deceased as 25-year-old Muhammad Hamid. It says 46 others were wounded, including 16 with bullet wounds. It says four of them are in serious condition.
Hundreds of protesters had gathered on the outskirts of Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority is headquartered, to protest against Israel’s actions in Gaza and Jerusalem. They burned tires and hurled stones at the Israeli troops, who fired tear gas at them.
At one point, seven shots rang out, but it was unclear where they came from. Israeli soldiers on a hillside opposite the protest could be seen taking cover behind mounds of sandbags.
Tensions are soaring over the latest Gaza war, as well as recent clashes in Jerusalem and cities across Israel. A general strike on Tuesday was observed by Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories.

CAIRO — Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has announced the allocation of $500 million for reconstruction efforts in the Gaza Strip.
El-Sisi’s office said in a Facebook post Tuesday that Egyptian firms would contribute in the re-building efforts.
Egypt, which is leading mediation efforts to reach a cease-fire, has sent some two dozen trucks carrying humanitarian aid and medical supplies to Gaza through the Raffah crossing point.
It has also received wounded people from the latest round of violence to be treated in Egyptian hospitals.

REYKJAVIK, Iceland — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Israel has given the United States information about its bombing of a Gaza building housing The Associated Press and other media outlets.
Israel had claimed that Hamas had a military intelligence office in the Gaza building which it leveled in a weekend airstrike. But Israel has not publicly provided any evidence backing up that claim. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would share any evidence of Hamas’ presence in the targeted building through intelligence channels.
Blinken said from Iceland on Tuesday that “we have received some further information through intelligence channels.” He declined to characterize the material, saying “that’s not something I can comment on.”
Press freedom groups condemned the attack, which leveled the building and marked a new chapter in the already rocky relationship between the Israeli military and the international media.
AP President Gary Pruitt has called for an independent investigation into the attack.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israeli police say two Thai workers inside Israel have been killed in a strike launched from the Gaza Strip.
Another seven people were wounded in that attack Tuesday afternoon that hit a packaging plant in southern Israel, authorities said.
Militants from Gaza have launched thousands of rockets at civilian targets in Israel since last week. Israel has responded with airstrikes against what it says are militant targets in Gaza.

VIENNA — Austria has summoned the Turkish ambassador to complain about comments in which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blasted Austrian officials’ decision to fly the Israeli flag over government buildings as a signal of solidarity.
The Israeli flag was raised over the chancellery and foreign ministry in Vienna on Friday amid rocket attacks by the Hamas militant group on Israel. In a televised address to the nation on Monday, Erdogan said: “I curse the Austrian government which raised the Israeli flag over its (chancellery) building.”
He added that “flying the flag of a terrorist nation over such an official (building) is akin to living a life with terror. Presumably the Austrian government is trying to make Muslims pay the price of their own genocide against the Jews.” The latter is a reference to the fact that, after its annexation in 1938, Austria was part of Nazi Germany.
The Austria Press Agency reported that Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said Turkey’s ambassador was summoned Tuesday over “these absurd comments by President Erdogan.”
Schallenberg added that “it won’t be possible to solve the Middle East conflict while foaming at the mouth.” He said that “instead of pouring oil on the fire, Turkey is urgently called on to contribute to de-escalation.”

GENEVA — The UN humanitarian agency is describing an increasingly dire situation inside the Gaza Strip as the war between Israel and the territory’s Hamas rulers rages with no end in sight.
Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, says nearly 47,000 Palestinians have fled their homes during more than a week of heavy Israeli airstrikes. Hamas and other militants have fired more than 3,400 rockets into Israel.
Laerke says electricity across Gaza is only available for six to eight hours a day.
Citing Palestinian authorities, he said 132 buildings comprising 621 housing and commercial units have been destroyed in Gaza. He says another 316 housing units have been severely damaged and rendered uninhabitable.
Israel and Egypt have imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza since Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007. Israel says the closures are needed to keep the group from rearming, while rights groups view it as a form of collective punishment.
Laerke welcomed Israel’s decision to open Gaza’s main commercial crossing, allowing essential supplies to flow in for the first time since war broke out on May 10.
COGAT, the Israeli military body that coordinates civilian affairs in Gaza, said the crossing was closed after a mortar attack, several hours after it had been opened in order to allow medical equipment in.

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s foreign minister visited Turkey on Tuesday seeking to mobilize international pressure on Israel to halt attacks on the Gaza Strip.
The latest development comes a day after Pakistan’s lower house of parliament passed a unanimous resolution denouncing Israel’s attacks on Palestinian people.
Before leaving on his diplomatic mission, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Pakistan stands firmly with the Palestinians.
Qureshi will also travel to New York to address the UN General Assembly later this week on the matter.
A day before, Pakistan’s opposition parties and the government issued a call for nationwide rallies on Friday to express solidarity with Palestinians.
Pakistan is among those countries that does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin says it is “imperative” to end the violence between Israel and the Palestinians.
Speaking at a ceremony with new foreign ambassadors at the Kremlin on Tuesday, Putin noted that “the outburst of confrontation between the Palestinians and the Israelis has already led to a large number of casualties among civilian population, including children.”
“We consider it imperative to end violent actions on both sides and to actively seek a solution based on a relevant resolution of the United Nations Security Council and universally recognized principles of international law,” Putin said.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden expressed support for a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers in a call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But the American leader stopped short of demanding an immediate stop to the eight days of Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocket barrages that have killed more than 200 people, most of them Palestinian.
Biden’s carefully worded statement, in a White House readout Monday of his second known call to Netanyahu in three days as the attacks pounded on, came with the administration under pressure to respond more forcefully despite its determination to wrench the US foreign policy focus away from Middle East conflicts.
Biden’s comments on a cease-fire were open-ended and were similar to previous administration statements of support in principle for a cease-fire.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Palestinians across Israel and the occupied territories went on strike in a rare collective action against Israel’s policies on Tuesday as Israeli strikes rained down on Gaza and militants fired dozens of rockets from the Hamas-ruled territory.
With the war in Gaza showing no sign of abating and truce efforts apparently stalled, the general strike and expected protests could again widen the conflict after a spasm of communal violence in Israel and protests across the occupied West Bank last week.
Tuesday’s airstrikes toppled a six-story building that housed libraries and educational centers belonging to the Islamic University, leaving behind a massive mound of rebar and concrete slabs. Desks, office chairs, books and computer wires could be seen in the debris. Residents sifted through the rubble, searching for their belongings.


Lebanon Christian leader summoned over deadly violence

Lebanon Christian leader summoned over deadly violence
Updated 57 min 24 sec ago

Lebanon Christian leader summoned over deadly violence

Lebanon Christian leader summoned over deadly violence
  • Hezbollah and Amal accused Lebanese Forces, which supports the probe, of being responsible for sniper fire against the protesters that ignited street clashes
  • A representative of the military court had "instructed the army intelligence to summon Geagea and take his statement based on information provided by arrested LF members"

BEIRUT: The head of the Lebanese Forces Christian group, Samir Geagea, has been summoned for questioning over deadly violence that erupted at a Shiite rally last week, a judicial official said Thursday.
Seven people were killed in Beirut on October 14 during a protest organized by the Shiite movements Amal and Hezbollah to demand Tarek Bitar, the judge investigating Beirut’s powerful port blast, be removed.
Hezbollah and Amal accused the Lebanese Forces (LF), which supports the probe, of being responsible for sniper fire against the protesters that ignited street clashes.
The Christian group denies the charges.
Fadi Akiki, a representative of the military court, had “instructed the army intelligence to summon Geagea and take his statement based on information provided by arrested LF members,” the judicial official said.
Twenty-six people were arrested after the violence in the heart of the Lebanese capital, most of them LF members, the official said on Thursday.
The exact circumstances of the violence remain unclear.
Geagea has denied responsiblity for the deaths, saying that residents of Beirut’s Christian neighborhood of Ain Al-Remmaneh had “defended” themselves against “Hezbollah militiamen who tried to enter their homes.”
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said on Monday that his Iran-backed movement had 100,000 armed fighters at its disposal, and warned it is against sparking any “civil war.”
On Thursday, Geagea told the Lebanon’s MTV channel he was not aware of the summons.
“I am ready to appear before the judge, on one condition: that Hassan Nasrallah does it before me,” he said.
Nasrallah has been in hiding since the war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006.
Tensions flared after Bitar summoned two Amal former ministers for questioning as part of the investigation into last year’s devastating Beirut port blast.
The explosion of a huge stockpile of poorly stored fertilizer on the dockside on August 4, 2020 killed more than 210 people, wounded thousands and ravaged half the capital.


Woman dies in crash, run over repeatedly on pitch-black Lebanese highway

Woman dies in crash, run over repeatedly on pitch-black Lebanese highway
Updated 21 October 2021

Woman dies in crash, run over repeatedly on pitch-black Lebanese highway

Woman dies in crash, run over repeatedly on pitch-black Lebanese highway
  • Banque du Liban holds meeting with IMF executive director 
  • Hezbollah and Amal Movement boycotting Cabinet sessions 

BEIRUT: Lebanon on Thursday woke to news of one of the bleakest moments brought on by the country’s energy crisis, after the smashed-up body of a female Ethiopian worker was found on Al-Zahrani Highway, which links Beirut to the south.

According to a security source, she was killed in a crash during the night but was run over again and again as drivers could not see her body in the dark.

People took to the streets for the second day in a row to protest their ever-worsening conditions, especially the uncontrolled rise in fuel prices and its repercussions on everyday life.

On Thursday, Banque du Liban said a meeting was held with the executive director at the International Monetary Fund during which the government's priorities were discussed, especially with regard to a “comprehensive economic project.”

The IMF’s Mahmoud Mohieldin described his visit to Lebanon and his meetings with officials as “successful, with a positive outcome, compared to previous visits.”

He said: “I saw a better consensus over priorities and a common discourse between the parties regarding the economic crisis and its social effects. The meetings reflect the four priorities that constitute the pillars of future dealings with the IMF, and a framework for the negotiations that the government will carry out with the BDL in the coming weeks. It is important to consider a timeframe.”

Mohieldin stressed the importance of unifying the exchange rate which was, he added, usually a product of comprehensive economic reforms that were being initiated.

“A law to control remittances from inside and outside the country needs to be adopted, along with structural reforms and emphasis on the issue of governance, transparency and sector-related priorities, determined by the state.

“If we succeed in developing a good framework to present to the IMF in the coming weeks, it can then be presented to the IMF’s board of directors, and the form of the program and the financing framework associated with it will thus be determined, in a way that will reinstate confidence in the Lebanese economy and restore financial flows,” he said.

But the Cabinet has yet to convene as the ministers of Hezbollah and the Amal Movement are refusing to attend a session until Judge Tarek Bitar, who is leading the investigation into last year’s Beirut Port blast, is dismissed and until the deadly street violence from earlier this month is investigated.

The government is also supposed to decide on the ration card for the country’s poorest and most vulnerable, coinciding with the lifting of fuel subsidies.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Thursday contacted several officials following statements from the Culture Minister Mohammad Mortada, who is affiliated with the Shiite parties Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, about Shiite ministers resigning from the government.

Mikati also met President Michel Aoun. 

According to a ministerial source, their meeting revolved around “finding a formula” that would lead to the resumption of government work “under the pressure of stressful living conditions.”

"All parties realize that the uncontrolled rise in prices will implode in the street, and the government bears the responsibility to implement rescue measures and secure the required international assistance,” the source added.

Mikati chaired a committee meeting to address the repercussions of the financial crisis on public utilities. 

The committee discussed existing obligations and an agreement to provide a financial, contractual and legal equation that allowed securing public utility services and the continuation or termination of business in a balanced and fair manner that took into account urgent factors.

The majority of contractors that signed with the Lebanese state have stopped their work, including waste removal companies, because the cost was calculated on the official exchange rate of LBP1,507 to the US dollar. But the Lebanese national currency trades at around LBP20,000 to the dollar on the black market.

During the meeting, it was decided that the first Cabinet session would announce measures that would respond to the living crisis, specifically raising the daily transport allowance, and approving a monthly advance as social assistance for workers in public institutions, government hospitals and schools, within an integrated project.


Tunisia president promises ‘dialogue’ over political system

Tunisia president promises ‘dialogue’ over political system
Updated 21 min 24 sec ago

Tunisia president promises ‘dialogue’ over political system

Tunisia president promises ‘dialogue’ over political system
  • Saied said the dialogue would include the country's young people
  • He criticised what he called foreign interference

TUNIS: Tunisia's president said on Tuesday he would launch a "national dialogue" on changing electoral law and the political system, but gave no detail on how he would allay international concerns about his seizure of near total power.
President Kais Saied assumed executive authority in July then last month brushed aside most of the constitution. Critics called the moves a coup and the European Union this week joined other donors in calling for a restoration of democratic order.
In a speech streamed on the presidential Facebook page, Saied said the dialogue would include the country's young people, but kept up a defiant tone.
He said the discussions would not include "those who stole the people's money and traitors". He also criticised what he called foreign interference, telling world powers to "return smuggled Tunisian money to European and international banks".
Critics say his moves have cast doubt over the democratic gains of Tunisia's 2011 revolution. But his supporters have hailed the changes, saying they have reclaimed the revolution from an entrenched, corrupt elite.
Saied announced a new government this month but gave no indication he was ready to relinquish control. Under rules announced in September, the new cabinet ultimately answers to him rather than the new prime minister, Najla Bouden.


Israelis in West Bank flashpoint dig for new neighborhood

Israelis in West Bank flashpoint dig for new neighborhood
Updated 21 October 2021

Israelis in West Bank flashpoint dig for new neighborhood

Israelis in West Bank flashpoint dig for new neighborhood
  • "We are clearing the area for the beginning of the new project," said Yishai Fleisher, spokesman for Hebron's Jewish community
  • The Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now is suing to stop the project

JERUSALEM: Jewish residents of an explosive settlement in the West Bank city of Hebron said Thursday they had begun work in the construction of a new neighborhood.
“We are clearing the area for the beginning of the new project,” said Yishai Fleisher, spokesman for Hebron’s Jewish community.
Israel approved the construction four years ago on an Israeli military base and allocated more than $6 million to it.
The Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now is suing to stop the project, which it says is the first major expansion of the Jewish community in Hebron in two decades.
The neighborhood would eventually contain 31 homes, Fleisher said.
About 1,000 Jewish settlers live in Hebron under heavy Israeli military protection among more than 200,000 Palestinians.
Israel occupied the West Bank, including Hebron, along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in 1967. Palestinians eye the areas for their future state.
Hebron contains a holy site known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi mosque and to Jews as the Cave of the Patriarchs, which is revered by both faiths.
Palestinian Hebron resident Issa Amro, an activist against settlements, said the new neighborhood would exacerbate friction in the area.
“It means an increase in violence. It means the restrictions on us as Palestinians. It means changing the identity of our own city to an Israeli, Hebrew city,” he said.
The construction was revealed by Peace Now, which published video showing a digger at work.
The Israeli military body responsible for civilian affairs in the West Bank, COGAT, approved the new settler units in central Hebron in 2017.
Peace Now and the Hebron municipality challenged the apartment project in Jerusalem’s district court and lost, said Hagit Ofran of Peace Now.
The area had previously served as a bus station before the Israeli army closed it for security reasons, Ofran said.
“Now Israel decided there was no military purpose anymore, there is no security need, so it should return to the (Palestinians),” Ofran said. “But instead of returning it, they are taking it and giving it to settlers.”
Fleisher said no court issued an injunction against construction.
Ofran said her group and Hebron are now appealing to Israel’s supreme court.


P5 countries call for protection of civilians amid Houthi offensive on Marib

P5 countries call for protection of civilians amid Houthi offensive on Marib
Updated 21 October 2021

P5 countries call for protection of civilians amid Houthi offensive on Marib

P5 countries call for protection of civilians amid Houthi offensive on Marib
  • P5: All Yemeni parties should promote dialogue and that “there is no military solution to the crisis”
  • The call took place a day after the UN Security Council condemned Houthi cross-border attacks against targets in Saudi Arabia

LONDON: The UN Security Council’s five permanent members called for the unconditional protection of civilians in Marib on Thursday.
During a call with Marib’s governor, the heads of missions of the UK, US, France, Russia and China to Yemen said that “a fully inclusive political solution in Yemen is the only way to end to the suffering of the Yemeni people.”
They added that all Yemeni parties should promote dialogue and that “there is no military solution to the crisis.”
The governor of Marib, Sultan Al-Arada, briefed the ambassadors on the dire humanitarian situation in the governorate.
The call took place a day after the UN Security Council condemned Houthi cross-border attacks against targets in Saudi Arabia, car-bomb attacks targeting a Yemeni official convoy, and attacks on civilian and commercial ships in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea.
Thousands of combatants and civilians have been killed in Marib province since early this year when the Houthis resumed a major military offensive to control Marib city.
The Arab coalition has recently been carrying out operations in Marib’s besieged Abedia district which has been under a Houthi siege since Sept. 23.
The militia has been hindering the movement of civilians and impeding humanitarian aid flows.