Rights group: Israeli strikes on Gaza apparently broke law

Rights group: Israeli strikes on Gaza apparently broke law
The Al-Jalaa building housing the offices of The Associated Press and other media and home to dozens of families, collapses after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike, in Gaza City. (AP/File)
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Updated 23 August 2021

Rights group: Israeli strikes on Gaza apparently broke law

Rights group: Israeli strikes on Gaza apparently broke law
  • The international human rights group called on Israeli military to produce evidence justifying the attacks
  • Human Rights Watch noted that although no one was harmed in the airstrikes but damaged neighboring buildings and business and left dozens of people homeless

JERUSALEM: Israeli airstrikes that demolished four high-rise buildings in the Gaza Strip during the war in May apparently violated international laws of war, a leading international human rights group said Monday.
The group called on the Israeli military to produce evidence justifying the attacks.
Human Rights Watch noted that although no one was harmed in the airstrikes, the attacks damaged neighboring buildings, left dozens of people homeless and destroyed scores of businesses.
“The apparently unlawful Israeli strikes on four high-rise towers in Gaza City caused serious, lasting harm for countless Palestinians who lived, worked, shopped or benefited from businesses based there,” said Richard Weir, crisis and conflict researcher for Human Rights Watch.
“The Israeli military should publicly produce the evidence that it says it relies on to carry out these attacks.”
In response to the report, the Israeli military accused Hamas and other militant groups of using the buildings for military purposes and turning their occupants into human shields.
“The assets Hamas tried to hide inside these multistory buildings ... were often of particularly high military value, and successfully striking them was of strategic importance,” it said.
It was the New York-based group’s third report on the 11-day war. It has previously accused Israel of apparent war crimes for attacks that it said had no clear military targets but killed dozens of civilians. It also has said that Hamas’ rockets were fired indiscriminately at Israeli cities, constituting a war crime. Both sides denied the accusations.
The war erupted on May 10 after Hamas fired a barrage of rockets toward Jerusalem in support of Palestinian protests against Israel’s heavy-handed policing of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam, and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers in a nearby neighborhood.
In all, some 260 people were killed in Gaza, including at least 66 children and 41 women, according to UN figures. Hamas has acknowledged the deaths of 80 militants, though Israel says that number is much higher. Twelve civilians, including two children, were killed in Israel, along with one soldier.
Israel’s destruction of Palestinian high-rises was one of its most controversial wartime tactics. Among the targets was the 12-story Al-Jalaa building, which housed the local offices of The Associated Press. The building was also home to dozens of families.
The AP has called on Israel to make public the evidence it used to justify the demolition of the Al-Jalaa building. Israel has said Hamas operatives were using the building for a sophisticated effort aimed at disrupting Israel’s Iron Dome rocket-defense system. But it has refused to share its intelligence, saying it did not want to reveal its sources of information.
HRW said it interviewed 18 Palestinians who were either witnesses or victims of the airstrikes. It said it also reviewed video footage and photos after the attacks, as well as statements by Israeli and Palestinian officials and militant groups.
It said it found no evidence that militants involved in military operations had a current or long-term presence in the buildings when they were attacked. It also said that even if militants were using the buildings, making them legitimate targets, Israel is obligated to avoid disproportionate harm to civilians.
“The proportionality of the attack is even more questionable because Israeli forces have previously demonstrated the capacity to strike specific floors or parts of structures,” it said.
In its statement, the Israeli military said that in all of the cases cited by Human Rights Watch, it provided “significant advance warnings and took efforts to ensure civilians had evacuated.”
It said that whenever possible, it struck specific floors of buildings. But in some cases, it had to destroy “the entire target” when it believe a pinpoint strike could cause an uncontrolled collapse or if the building was of high military value. “This was the case in a handful of cases,” it said, “and is the case in all the buildings mentioned in the report.”
The May conflict was the fourth war between Israel and Hamas since the Islamic militant group, which opposes Israel’s existence, seized control of Gaza in 2007, a year after winning Palestinian elections. Human Rights Watch, other rights groups and UN officials have accused both sides of committing war crimes in all of the conflicts.
Early this year, HRW accused Israel of being guilty of international crimes of apartheid because of discriminatory policies toward Palestinians, both inside Israel as well as in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel has rejected the accusations.
It also has called on the International Criminal Court to include the recent Gaza war in its ongoing investigation into possible war crimes by Israel and Palestinian militants. Israel does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction and says it is capable of investigating any possible wrongdoing by its army. It says the ICC probe is unfair and politically motivated.


Hundreds linked to Daesh transferred from Syria to Iraq

Hundreds linked to Daesh transferred from Syria to Iraq
Updated 12 August 2022

Hundreds linked to Daesh transferred from Syria to Iraq

Hundreds linked to Daesh transferred from Syria to Iraq
  • It is the fourth operation of its kind this year from the camp, which lies less than 10 kilometers from the Iraqi border
  • The men, women and children belonged to 150 families and left the camp on Thursday

BEIRUT: Syria’s autonomous Kurdish region transferred to the Iraqi government more than 600 relatives of Daesh group members who were detained at the notorious Al-Hol camp, a monitor said Friday.
It is the fourth operation of its kind this year from the camp, which lies less than 10 kilometers from the Iraqi border.
In the latest transfer, around “620 people, relatives of Daesh members, left Al-Hol,” coordinated between the camp administration and the Iraqi government, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement.
The men, women and children belonged to 150 families and left the camp on Thursday, an official in the Kurdish administration told AFP.
Thousands of foreign extremists joined Daesh as fighters, often bringing their wives and children to live in the “caliphate” declared by the group across swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014.
Kurdish-led forces backed by a US-led coalition dislodged the militants from their last scrap of territory in Syria in 2019.
Kurdish authorities have repeatedly called on countries to repatriate their citizens from crowded displaced camps, of which Al-Hol is Syria’s largest.
More than 100 people, including many women, were murdered in Al-Hol over an 18-month period, the UN said in June, calling for camp residents to be returned home.
But nations have mostly received them only sporadically, fearing security threats and a domestic political backlash.
The first repatriation of Iraqi families from Al-Hol, involving around 300 people, took place in May last year.
Iraq should repatriate 500 families in total from Al-Hol this year, the official Iraqi New Agency announced on Wednesday.
In addition to the returned family members, the Iraqi government also received this week about 50 Iraqi Daesh fighters and leaders who were detained by the Syrian Democratic Forces, according to the Observatory.
The SDF spearheaded the fight against Daesh in Syria with the support of the US-led coalition.
In early June, Iraq repatriated another 50 Iraqi Daesh fighters who were detained by Kurdish forces. They were among 3,500 Iraqis held in Syrian Kurdish prisons, a senior military official said at the time.
In April, a senior Iraqi security official said the Al-Hol camp is a security threat and should be dismantled.
It houses around 55,000 people, the UN reported in June.


Sadr followers hold mass prayer outside Iraqi parliament in show of force

Sadr followers hold mass prayer outside Iraqi parliament in show of force
Updated 12 August 2022

Sadr followers hold mass prayer outside Iraqi parliament in show of force

Sadr followers hold mass prayer outside Iraqi parliament in show of force
  • Supporters of the populist leader have occupied the Iraqi parliament since July
  • Iran-aligned political groups were expected to hold their own demonstration later on Friday

BAGHDAD: Thousands of followers of Moqtada Al-Sadr held a mass prayer outside parliament in Baghdad on Friday in a show of support for the powerful Shiite cleric who has called for Iraq’s judiciary to dissolve parliament by the end of next week.
Supporters of the populist leader have occupied the Iraqi parliament since July after a 10-month political stalemate that followed elections last October. Sadr was the biggest winner but failed to form a government free of Iranian-backed parties.
He withdrew his lawmakers from parliament and is now preventing the chamber from electing a new government and is demanding early elections.
On Wednesday he said the judiciary must dissolve parliament by the end of next week. If not “the revolutionaries will take another stand,” he said without elaborating.
Outside parliament on Friday thousands of Sadr supporters gathered for prayer. Most were dressed in black to mark the Muslim month of Muharram and some wore white capes symbolizing burial shrouds and their willingness to die.
“You will not break Iraq as long as Sadr is here,” an imam told the crowd from a big red stage set up outside parliament. “There is no going back from this revolution ... and the people will not give up their demands.”
In the intense summer heat, men picked their way through the worshippers and sprayed them with cold water. Some carried portraits of Sadr and his father, also a prominent cleric, as well as Iraqi flags.
“We have revolted and there is no going back,” said Mohammed Elwan, 40, carrying a portrait of Sadr.
Hamid Hussain, a father of five, said: “I am here to call for an early election and make sure that all the corrupt faces are excluded from the upcoming elections...I became unemployed because of the corrupt parties.”
Sadr’s opponents also accuse him of corruption. They say his loyalists have run some of Iraq’s most corrupt and dysfunctional government departments.
Iran-aligned political groups were expected to hold their own demonstration later on Friday, the latest in a series of protest and counter-protest in recent days which have led to fears of unrest.
Sadr counts millions of Iraqis among his followers and has shown he can still stir up gatherings by hundreds of thousands of supporters, mostly working-class Shiite Muslims, if he needs to exert political pressure.
His father Mohammed Sadiq Al-Sadr was killed more than 20 years ago for his outspoken opposition Saddam Hussein. When Saddam was topped in a US-led invasion in 2003 Sadr began an insurgency against US troops.
His new foes, however, are fellow Shiite leaders and parties mostly aligned with Iran, as Sadr has positioned himself as a nationalist who rejects foreign interference. Those groups, like Sadr, are backed by heavily armed militias, but do not hold the same sway as he does over masses of fanatical followers.


UAE minister says youth are main tool for building sustainable future

UAE minister says youth are main tool for building sustainable future
Updated 12 August 2022

UAE minister says youth are main tool for building sustainable future

UAE minister says youth are main tool for building sustainable future

DUBAI: The UAE’s Minister of Culture and Youth, Noura bint Mohammed al-Kaabi, said investing in young people, and empowering them to make a contribution to their countries and communities is the foundation of a nation’s development.
“Youth are the real capital and the main tool in our growth journey to build a sustainable future. In order to prepare them for future leadership positions, it is imperative to include them in key decision-making roles today," she said in a statement on the occasion of the International Youth Day, marked annually on Aug. 12.
The UAE government, she said, is keen to hear the voices of young people and empower them to achieve their goals. 
The National Strategy for Cultural and Creative Industries is one of the strategies which enables the UAE to invest in young talent and “helps nurture creativity and harness their energy to work towards a sustainable future,” according to state news agency WAM. 
The UAE has also launched initiatives and found specialised organisations that cater to young people's needs. 
This includes establishing the Federal Youth Authority (FYA) which implements 35 youth initiatives through 15 creative youth hubs across the country to engage the young population in various sectors of society.
The minister also said that the UAE also focuses on young people from all over the world. 
“This is the reason why Arab youth have chosen the UAE, for 10 consecutive years, as the best country to live and work. It goes to show that the country's strategy in attracting and caring for creative youth and providing them with a conducive environment is bearing fruit and enhancing the capabilities of the country and youth alike,” she said.


Iran says EU proposal to revive nuclear deal could be ‘acceptable’

Iran says EU proposal to revive nuclear deal could be ‘acceptable’
Updated 12 August 2022

Iran says EU proposal to revive nuclear deal could be ‘acceptable’

Iran says EU proposal to revive nuclear deal could be ‘acceptable’
  • The EU earlier it had put forward “final” text following indirect talks between the US and Iranian officials in Vienna

DUBAI, Aug 12 : A European Union proposal to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal “can be acceptable if it provides assurances” on Tehran’s key demands, the state news agency IRNA said on Friday, quoting a senior Iranian diplomat.
The EU said on Monday it had put forward a “final” text following four days of indirect talks between the US and Iranian officials in Vienna.
A senior EU official said no more changes could be made to the text, which has been under negotiation for 15 months. He said he expected a final decision from the parties within a “very, very few weeks.”
IRNA quoted the unidentified Iranian diplomat as saying Tehran was reviewing the proposal. “Proposals by the EU can be acceptable if they provide Iran with assurance on the issues of safeguards, sanctions and guarantees,” the diplomat said.
The Islamic Republic has sought to obtain guarantees that no future US president would renege on the deal if it were revived, as then-President Donald Trump did in 2018 and restored harsh US sanctions on Iran.
However, President Joe Biden cannot provide such ironclad assurances because the deal is a political understanding rather than a legally binding treaty.
Washington has said it is ready to quickly reach an agreement to revive the deal on the basis of the EU proposals.
Iranian officials said they would convey their “additional views and considerations” to the EU, which coordinates the talks, after consultations in Tehran.
The 2015 pact seemed near revival in March. But 11 months of indirect talks between Tehran and the Biden administration in Vienna were thrown into disarray chiefly over Iran’s insistence that Washington remove its elite Revolutionary Guards Corps from the US Foreign Terrorist Organizations list.
Under the 2015 agreement, Iran curbed its disputed uranium enrichment program, a possible pathway to nuclear weapons, in return for relief from US, EU and UN sanctions. Tehran says it wants nuclear power only for peaceful purposes.


UAE aid ship arrives in Somalia to deliver food and relief supplies

UAE aid ship arrives in Somalia to deliver food and relief supplies
Updated 12 August 2022

UAE aid ship arrives in Somalia to deliver food and relief supplies

UAE aid ship arrives in Somalia to deliver food and relief supplies
  • The number of Somalians facing crisis hunger levels is expected to rise from 5 million to more than 7 million in the coming months

DUBAI: A UAE aid ship has docked in Somalia’s Mogadishu port to deliver 1,000 tons of food and relief supplies for approximately 2.5 million residents affected by drought.

Somalia is currently experiencing a two-year historic dry spell, a situation not seen in more than 40 years, and up to one million people have been displaced as the drought ravaged crops and livestock.

The number of Somalians facing crisis hunger levels is expected to rise from 5 million to more than 7 million in the coming months, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said.

The provision of relief aid comes from UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan’s earlier order for 35 million dirhams worth of urgent humanitarian aid be sent to families and those displaced in their areas and camps.

The aid reaffirms the UAE’s commitment to helping friendly countries and its efforts to develop its bilateral relations with Somalia, state news agency WAM earlier said.