UN Security Council faces criticism from Israeli and Palestinian envoys

UN Security Council faces criticism from Israeli and Palestinian envoys
The council has “an even greater duty to actively pursue peace,” says Palestine’s permanent observer to the UN
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Updated 29 July 2021

UN Security Council faces criticism from Israeli and Palestinian envoys

UN Security Council faces criticism from Israeli and Palestinian envoys
  • Israel’s ambassador says members should be focusing on the activities of Iran and Hamas instead of the situation in East Jerusalem
  • Palestine’s representative bemoans council’s “limitations in times of aggression and war” which mean it has “an even greater duty to actively pursue peace”

NEW YORK: The Security Council faced criticism from both the Israeli and Palestinian envoys to the UN on Wednesday.
Israel’s ambassador to the US and the UN, Gilad Erdan, slammed council members for spending time discussing the situation in East Jerusalem. Instead, he said, Iran and the crises it is provoking in the region, in places such as Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iraq, should be the focus of attention, along with the activities of Hamas.
“Hamas and Iran are fighting to keep the Middle East stuck in Middle Ages darkness,” he said.
He was speaking during a meeting of the Security Council to discuss the humanitarian response and reconstruction efforts following the war in Gaza in May, the continuing evictions of Palestinian families and demolitions of their homes in East Jerusalem, and the violent response by Palestinian security forces to protests against corruption and the death last month of political activist Nizar Banat during his arrest by Palestinian security forces.
“Shouldn’t the crisis in Lebanon be discussed today?” Erdan asked the 15-member council. He accused the UN of bias against Israel, and criticized the council for inviting Yudith Oppenheimer to give a briefing. She is the executive director of Ir Amim, an Israeli non-governmental organization (NGO) that campaigns to make Jerusalem a safe and inclusive city for all its residents.
“No NGO can come to the Security Council and criticize the Palestinian Authority,” Erdan said in response to criticisms of the Israeli state. He added that the “obsession with the world’s only Jewish state also encouraged companies like Ben and Jerry’s (ice cream) and Unilever to impose antisemitic boycotts on Israel.”
Vermont-based brand Ben and Jerry’s, which is owned by Unilever, announced last week that it will no longer sell its products in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, saying that to do so would be “inconsistent with our values.”
Erdan said that last year’s Abraham Accords, the agreements by the UAE and Bahrain to normalize relations with Israel, prove that peace is only possible when parties come together to build a better future for their children, “not through boycotts or by the Security Council interfering.” The accords might have been possible only because the council did not interfere, he added.
The Security Council also came in for criticism from Riad Mansour, Palestine’s permanent observer to the UN, over what he called “its limitations in times of aggression and war.” Such failures mean the council has “an even greater duty to actively pursue peace,” he added.
“It knows the road that leads to that destination,” he said. “It is inscribed in its own resolutions, including Resolution 2334.” The resolution describes Israel’s settlement activity in the Occupied Territories as a “flagrant violation” of international law.
“It has the tools to help implement these resolutions,” Mansour continued. “It has a mechanism, the Quartet, established for that sole purpose. (This) council must be a catalyst for determined international action to steer us away from the path we are on and ride toward safety.”
He said that the contents of the briefings on Wednesday by Oppenheimer and Lynn Hastings, the UN’s coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territories and deputy special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, offered clear signs “of the need for international action to uphold international law and this council’s resolutions in our collective search for justice and peace.”
Hinting at the decision by Ben and Jerry’s, he told the council: “When companies implement your resolutions they should not be criticized, they should be saluted.”
He added: “Occupation and peace cannot co-exist. They are mutually exclusive. Advancing peace requires ending occupation.
“We have to name the alternative to (peace): Apartheid on both sides of the green line.”
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US envoy to the UN, said that her country remains committed to a two-state solution and “will continue to oppose efforts to single out Israel unfairly in UN forums.”
She urged Israelis and Palestinians to “to exercise restraint and refrain from provocative action and rhetoric, including settlement activity, annexation of territory, evictions, demolitions, incitement to violence and compensating individuals imprisoned for acts of terrorism.”
She also called on UN member states, “especially our partners in the Gulf,” to step up their commitments to UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA.)
Although she praised the agency’s staff for working “tirelessly” to meet the humanitarian needs of Palestinian refugees, Thomas-Greenfield said the organization needs “operational and managerial improvements.”
She added: “And I want to be clear, the US has zero tolerance for manifestations of antisemitism and racism and other forms of hatred in UN agencies, and that includes UNRWA.
“It is critical that UNRWA is able to implement its obligations in line with humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.”
Thomas-Greenfield described as unacceptable the “recent reports of the Palestinian Authority acting to restrict Palestinian freedom of expression and harass civil society activists and organizations.”
She highlighted the death of activist Banat in particular, and called for the circumstances to be investigated and those responsible held accountable.
During her briefing, Oppenheimer focused on Israeli demolitions and evictions, saying that they have recently “increased in scope and scale in an unprecedented manner.”
She said that 3,000 Palestinians are threatened with mass expulsion, including the communities of Sheikh Jarrah and Batan Al-Hawa.
“(Many) of the families facing eviction are Palestinian refugees who lost their homes in 1948 and now stand to be displaced for a second time,” she told the council.
“Beyond the geopolitical implications, these measures severely violate Palestinian rights to housing, and family and community life, as an occupied minority group protected under international law.
“The Israeli government presents its action as legitimate within the framework of democratic institutions. However, these institutions are largely inaccessible to East Jerusalem’s Palestinians, who are devoid of political rights and the power to participate in the legislative and policy-making processes which govern their lives.”
Hastings, the UN’s coordinator, said that the estimated cost of short-term recovery and reconstruction in Gaza following the hostilities in May is between $345 million and $485 million.
International efforts to address the situation are underway, but she called on Israel to implement additional measures to ensure unhindered entry for all humanitarian assistance.
She also urged Hamas and other armed groups to halt “the launching of incendiary devices, rockets and mortars and end the militant build-up.”
Hastings called on the Palestinian authority to ensure a thorough investigation is carried out into Banat’s death and “all allegations of use of disproportionate force against protesters by Palestinian security forces,” and said that those responsible must be held to account.
“The Palestinian people must be able to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, opinion and peaceful assembly,” she said. “Arbitrary and politically motivated arrests must cease.”


Iran’s fuel shipments violate Lebanon’s sovereignty: PM

Lebanon's Prime Minister-Designate Najib Mikati. (Reuters)
Lebanon's Prime Minister-Designate Najib Mikati. (Reuters)
Updated 19 September 2021

Iran’s fuel shipments violate Lebanon’s sovereignty: PM

Lebanon's Prime Minister-Designate Najib Mikati. (Reuters)
  • The National News Agency said security forces raided a fertilizer warehouse in the eastern Bekaa Valley, considered a hub for smuggling operations between Lebanon and Syria

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Iranian fuel shipments imported by the Hezbollah movement constitute a breach of Lebanon’s sovereignty, according to comments published by his office.
“The violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty makes me sad,” Mikati told CNN in an interview, his office said in a posting on Twitter.
He added: “But I’m not concerned that sanctions can be imposed” on Lebanon “because the operation was carried out without the involvement of the Lebanese government.”
The Tehran-aligned group on Thursday began bringing tanker trucks carrying fuel from Iran, a move it says should ease a crippling energy crisis in Lebanon.
A tanker ship carried the fuel to Syria and from there it crossed into Lebanon. Both Syria and Iran are under US sanctions.
Meanwhile, authorities have seized 20 tons of ammonium nitrate — the same chemical behind a deadly explosion last year at Beirut’s port — in the eastern Bekaa Valley, state media said.
Ammonium nitrate is an odorless crystalline substance commonly used as a fertilizer that has been the cause of numerous industrial explosions over the decades.
The National News Agency said security forces raided a fertilizer warehouse in the eastern Bekaa Valley, considered a hub for smuggling operations between Lebanon and Syria.
Authorities seized 20 tons of the dangerous chemical stored inside a truck parked at the warehouse, the NNA said, adding the material was transported to a “safe place.”
Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi called on security forces to conduct a sweep of the area. He said: “We must do our best to move these materials to a safer place away from exposure to heat and sun” to avoid a “catastrophe.”
The company that owns the ammonium nitrate said that the fertilizer was intended for agricultural use.


Iran leader reasserts ban on sports with Israel

A handout picture provided by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shows him during a meeting in the Iranian capital Tehran. (AFP file photo)
A handout picture provided by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shows him during a meeting in the Iranian capital Tehran. (AFP file photo)
Updated 19 September 2021

Iran leader reasserts ban on sports with Israel

A handout picture provided by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shows him during a meeting in the Iranian capital Tehran. (AFP file photo)
  • Khamenei instructed “the sports and foreign ministries, as well as the judiciary, to deploy their legal resources to support athletes from this and other Muslim countries, like the Algerian who was recently disciplined”

TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday reasserted the Islamic republic’s longstanding ban on competitive sport with Israelis, and promised support for athletes disciplined by international bodies for respecting it.
Iran does not recognize Israel and its athletes usually refrain from facing Israeli opponents, whether by forfeiting the match or by simply not participating.
“Any Iranian athlete worthy of the name cannot shake hands with a representative of the criminal regime in order to win a medal,” Khamenei told a reception for Iran’s medallists from the Tokyo 2020 Games.
“The illegitimate, bloodthirsty ... Zionist regime tries to win legitimacy by taking part in international sporting events attended by the world arrogance (Washington and the West), and our athletes cannot just stand idly by,” he added, in comments posted on his official website.

BACKGROUND

In Tokyo, Iran won seven Olympic medals, three of them gold, as well as 24 Paralympic medals.

Khamenei instructed “the sports and foreign ministries, as well as the judiciary, to deploy their legal resources to support athletes from this and other Muslim countries, like the Algerian who was recently disciplined.”
He was referring to Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine, who withdrew from the Tokyo Games after the draw set him on course for a possible matchup against an Israeli opponent, prompting his suspension from international competition.


North Africa COVID-19 cases plummet after summer spike

A woman walks past members of the Tunisian military standing guard during a protest against President Kais Saied in the capital Tunis on September 18, 2021. (AFP)
A woman walks past members of the Tunisian military standing guard during a protest against President Kais Saied in the capital Tunis on September 18, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 19 September 2021

North Africa COVID-19 cases plummet after summer spike

A woman walks past members of the Tunisian military standing guard during a protest against President Kais Saied in the capital Tunis on September 18, 2021. (AFP)
  • Morocco has seen 13,800 COVID-19 deaths in its population of around 36 million

TUNIS: Weeks after a spike in coronavirus cases overwhelmed intensive care units across North Africa with severe oxygen shortages sparking public anger, case numbers are sharply declining.
Images of intensive care units overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients in July sparked outrage in Tunisia, which has suffered the region’s highest number of deaths per head from the virus, with around 24,500 in a population of 11.7 million.
Authorities responded to the surge with a strict early evening curfew and travel restrictions. Neighboring Libya closed its border with Tunisia. Those measures have now been eased.
“There’s the effect of mass vaccination of the population,” said Hechmi Louzir, director of the Pasteur Institute in Tunis, who is a member of the country’s scientific committee on the pandemic.
More than a quarter of Tunisians are now fully inoculated.
Morocco has seen 13,800 COVID-19 deaths in its population of around 36 million. The kingdom is ahead of its Maghreb neighbors in inoculations, with 46.7 percent fully vaccinated.
Health Ministry official Abdelkrim Meziane Bellefquih said this week that infections were down for a fifth straight week. But in comments carried by the official MAP news agency, he warned that “high rates of critical cases and deaths continue to be recorded.”
With an official toll of 5,650 deaths, Algeria announced a target in September to vaccinate 70 percent of its 43.9 million population by the end of the year.
But AFP figures show that this week, barely 13 percent of the population had received a first vaccine jab, with fewer than 10 percent fully vaccinated.
The country’s caseload peaked in the last week of July with over 10,000 infections, but has since plummeted. While the first week of August saw 268 deaths, the last seven days saw 132.


Lebanon seizes dangerous fertilizer in country’s east

Lebanon seizes dangerous fertilizer in country’s east
Updated 18 September 2021

Lebanon seizes dangerous fertilizer in country’s east

Lebanon seizes dangerous fertilizer in country’s east
  • 20 tons of ammonium nitrate seized after raid on fertilizer warehouse in eastern Bekaa Valley
  • Shipment of the chemical carelessly stocked at Beirut Port caused a massive blast, killing 214 people, last year

BEIRUT: Lebanese authorities have seized 20 tons of ammonium nitrate — the same chemical behind a deadly explosion last year at Beirut’s port — in the eastern Bekaa Valley, state media reported on Saturday.
Ammonium nitrate is an odourless crystalline substance commonly used as a fertilizer that has been the cause of numerous industrial explosions over the decades.
At least 214 people were killed and some 6,500 others wounded on August 4, 2020 when a shipment of the chemical carelessly stocked at the Beirut port for years ignited and caused a massive blast.
On Saturday, the National News Agency (NNA) said security forces raided a fertilizer warehouse in the eastern Bekaa Valley, considered a hub for smuggling operations between Lebanon and Syria.
Authorities seized 20 tons of the dangerous chemical stored inside a truck parked at the warehouse, the NNA said, adding the material was transported to a “safe place.”
Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi, who visited the Bekaa Valley on Saturday, called on security forces to conduct a sweep of the area.
“We must do our best to move these materials to a safer place away from exposure to heat and sun” to avoid a “catastrophe,” the NNA quoted him as saying.
The company that owns the ammonium nitrate said that the fertilizer was intended for agricultural use.
“One of our employees informed the relevant authorities that we have ammonium nitrate, so they raided the warehouses on Friday,” one of the company heads told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The name of the firm that owns the fertilizer has not been made public pending investigations.
“We have been working in the feed and fertilizer industry for 40 years,” the company official added.
When combined with fuel oils, ammonium nitrate creates a potent explosive widely used in the construction industry, but also by insurgent groups for improvised explosives.
Lebanese authorities are still investigating the circumstances in which hundreds of tons of the chemical ended up in the Beirut port for years, before the monster explosion that levelled swathes of the city.


Church in former Daesh Iraqi stronghold gets new bell

Church in former Daesh Iraqi stronghold gets new bell
Updated 18 September 2021

Church in former Daesh Iraqi stronghold gets new bell

Church in former Daesh Iraqi stronghold gets new bell
  • The bell weighing 285kg was cast in Lebanon with donations from a French NGO

MOSUL: A bell was inaugurated at a church in Mosul on Saturday to the cheers of Iraqi Christians, seven years after the Daesh group overran the northern city.
Dozens of faithful stood by as Father Pios Affas rang the newly installed bell for the first time at the Syriac Christian church of Mar Tuma, an AFP correspondent reported.
It drew applause and ululations from the crowd, who took photos on mobile phones, before prayers were held.
“After seven years of silence, the bell of Mar Tuma rang for the first time on the right bank of Mosul,” Affas told them.
Daesh swept into Mosul and proclaimed it their “capital” in 2014, in an onslaught that forced hundreds of thousands of Christians in the northern Nineveh province to flee, some to Iraq’s nearby Kurdistan region.
The Iraqi army drove out the jihadists three years later after months of gruelling street fighting.
The return of the Mosul church bell “heralds days of hope, and opens the way, God willing, for the return of Christians to their city,” said Affas.
“This is a great day of joy, and I hope the joy will grow even more when not only all the churches and mosques in Mosul are rebuilt, but also the whole city, with its houses and historical sites,” he told AFP.
The bell weighing 285 kilogrammes (nearly 630 pounds) was cast in Lebanon with donations from Fraternity in Iraq, a French NGO that helps religious minorities, and transported from Beirut to Mosul by plane and truck.
The church of Mar Tuma, which dates back to the 19th century, was used by the jihadists as a prison or a court.
Restoration work is ongoing and its marble floor has been dismantled to be completely redone.
Nidaa Abdel Ahad, one of the faithful attending the inauguration, said she had returned to her home town from Irbil so that she could see the church being “brought back to life.”
“My joy is indescribable,” said the teacher in her forties. “It’s as if the heart of Christianity is beating again.”
Faraj-Benoit Camurat, founder and head of Fraternity in Iraq, said that “all the representations of the cross, all the Christian representations, were destroyed,” including marble altars.
“We hope this bell will be the symbol of a kind of rebirth in Mosul,” he told AFP by telephone.
Iraq’s Christian community, which numbered more than 1.5 million in 2003 before the US-led invasion, has shrunk to about 400,000, with many of them fleeing the recurrent violence that has ravaged the country.
Camurat said around 50 Christian families had resettled in Mosul, while others travel there to work for the day.
“The Christians could have left forever and abandoned Mosul,” but instead they being very active in the city, he said.