International community calls for maximum restraint in latest Gaza violence

Update Smoke rises above building following an Israeli air strike on Gaza City, on August 6, 2022 following Israeli strikes. (AFP)
Smoke rises above building following an Israeli air strike on Gaza City, on August 6, 2022 following Israeli strikes. (AFP)
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Updated 06 August 2022

International community calls for maximum restraint in latest Gaza violence

International community calls for maximum restraint in latest Gaza violence
  • Israel hit Gaza with deadly air strikes on Saturday
  • Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad retaliated with a barrage of rocket fire

LONDON: The EU on Saturday called for maximum restraint in the Gaza Strip’s worst escalation of violence since a war last year.
“The European Union follows with great concern the latest developments in and around Gaza,” a spokesman for EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.
“The EU calls for maximum restraint on all sides in order to avoid a further escalation and further casualties,” he said.
“While Israel has the right to protect its civilian population, everything must be done to prevent a broader conflict, which would, first and foremost, affect the civilian populations on both sides and result in further casualties and more suffering.”
At least 15 people, including a five-year-old girl, have been killed inside Gaza in the latest eruption of hostilities, according to Gaza health authorities, while no deaths have been reported on the Israeli side.
Israel hit Gaza with deadly air strikes on Saturday and a Palestinian militant group retaliated with a barrage of rocket fire.
UN Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland said he was “deeply concerned,” warning that the escalation was “very dangerous.”
Israel has said it was forced to launch a “pre-emptive” operation against Islamic Jihad, insisting the group was planning an imminent attack following days of tensions along the Gaza border.
Russia called for maximum restraint and said it was “observing with profound worry how events are evolving,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement.
“The new escalation was caused by Israeli army firing into the Gaza Strip on Aug. 5, to which Palestinian groups responded by carrying out massive and indiscriminate bombardments on Israeli territory.”
The Arab League “condemned in the strongest possible terms the ferocious Israeli aggression against Gaza,” and called on the Israeli government to immediately stop military operations and “bear the consequences of the escalation.”
Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit is “appealing to the international community and all parties with international influence to intervene to achieve a cease-fire, warning that the continuation of military operations may lead to an escalation that no party can account for its serious consequences,” his spokesman Jamal Rushdie, said.

Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Nayef Al-Hajraf urged the international community to act urgently for protect civilians, especially women and children.

He expressed his sincere condolences and sympathy to the families of the victims and to the government and people of Palestine, wishing the injured a speedy recovery.

The spokesman added that the “Israeli operation reflects internal tensions that could get out of control,” and stressed the “great fragility of the health sector in Gaza, which may exacerbate the effects of the military aggression.”
Jordan’s foreign ministry has “stressed the importance of halting the Israeli aggression,” and also warned of the “serious consequences of the Israeli escalation and intimidation of civilians.
Kuwait strongly condemned the raids launched by Israeli defense forces and said “this brutal aggression comes as a continuation of the crimes committed by the occupation forces and an insistence of their flagrant violation of the rules of international law and resolutions of international legitimacy.”
It called on the international community to take “immediate and swift action to stop these blatant attacks and to ensure that the occupying authorities respect the UN Charter and the rules of international law, the foreign ministry said.
Lebanon, Algeria, Libya also issued similar statements and called on the international community to take urgent and effective action to stop the escalation and provide them with protection, reiterating their firm position for the Palestinian cause and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.
The Arab Observatory for Human Rights said Israel’s aggression “undermines all efforts made to maintain comprehensive calm and prevent the escalation of violence that threatens international peace and security.”
Iran said the territory was “not alone” in its fight. “We are with you on this path until the end, and let Palestine and the Palestinians know that they are not alone,” Iran’s Revolutionary Guards chief Major General Hossein Salami told Islamic Jihad leader Ziad Al-Nakhala during a meeting in Tehran.
Meanwhile, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby urged calm from both sides but said US ally Israel had the right to defend itself.
“We certainly urge all sides to avoid further escalation... We absolutely fully support Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorist groups that are taking the lives of innocent civilians in Israel,” he said.
Britain also called for a swift end to the violence in the Gaza Strip, and said “the UK stands by Israel and its right to defend itself,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss tweeted.
“We condemn terrorist groups firing at civilians and violence which has resulted in casualties on both sides.”
“We call for a swift end to the violence.”
Egypt, which negotiated a cease-fire that ended an 11-day conflict in May 2021 between Israel and Gaza militants that devastated the densely-populated Gaza Strip and forced countless Israelis to rush to bomb shelters, is working to calm the latest escalation in Gaza.
An Egyptian security source told AFP in Gaza that Cairo’s mediation efforts had been ongoing since Friday when Israel launched attacks on what it described as Islamic Jihad targets.
“We hope to reach a consensus to return to calm as soon as possible,” the source said.
Israeli army spokesman Richard Hecht had earlier referred to Egyptian mediation when briefing reporters about the bombardment, without providing specifics.
An Egyptian source separately said that a delegation from Islamic Jihad may head to Cairo later Saturday.
Hamas, the Islamist group that has controlled Gaza since 2007, has so far stayed clear of the latest round of Gaza violence, but was also in talks with Egypt.
Its Doha-based leader Ismail Haniyeh has held talks with “Egyptian intelligence” over the violence, a Hamas statement said.

(With AFP)


Palestinian activists turn to TikTok amid Israeli anger over ‘propaganda videos’

Palestinian activists turn to TikTok amid Israeli anger over ‘propaganda videos’
Updated 02 October 2022

Palestinian activists turn to TikTok amid Israeli anger over ‘propaganda videos’

Palestinian activists turn to TikTok amid Israeli anger over ‘propaganda videos’
  • After Facebook, Instagram clamp down on content, Chinese-owned platform sees user surge

RAMALLAH: Palestinian activists are turning to TikTok to rally against activities by Israel, which accused the social media platform of igniting the security situation in the Middle East in recent weeks.

Israel had successfully pushed Meta to block thousands of Palestinian accounts and content from its social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, in addition to limiting Palestinian content through Twitter and Snapchat. However, TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, has rejected the Israeli allegations and refused to change its policies.

Thousands of Palestinian social media activists switched to TikTok during the past few weeks to enjoy online freedom and bypass Facebook’s restrictions.

Amer Hamdan, a Palestinian political activist, told Arab News that he recently switched from Facebook to Tiktok after suffering from restrictions imposed by the former, which he said flags the use of words including martyr, resistance and occupation.

Hamdan, who had 200,000 followers on his Facebook page, added that his account was closed because he published a picture of Khalil Al-Wazir, the Palestinian leader who Israel assassinated in Tunisia in 1988.

“Because Facebook is no longer the ideal platform for the Palestinians to spread their cause, the alternative is TikTok, which provides an adequate and sufficient space for the dissemination of media covering armed parades of Palestinian military groups and pictures of Palestinian resistance fighters with their weapons,” said Hamdan.

TikTok previously ranked third in Palestine — after Facebook and Instagram — in social media app usage. However, it jumped to second place during recent weeks, with Palestinian social media experts telling Arab News that though 3 million Palestinian accounts are on Facebook, more than 1 million Palestinians are on TikTok, with the number rapidly increasing.

Palestinian activists also see more technical flexibility while publishing on Tiktok compared to Facebook, with the platform allowing three-minute clips for all users, and 15-minute videos for users who have 1,000 followers or more.

“Within a year, TikTok will be the number one social media platform used by Palestinians,” Hamdan said.

Sam Bahour, an expert in business development affairs, said that social media is gaining “exceptional importance” for Palestinians by enabling them to communicate and bypass Israeli restrictions across the West Bank, Gaza Strip, as well worldwide through the diaspora.

Ahmed Al-Qadi, from a center that specializes in researching social media activities, told Arab News that after the violent events in the Palestinian territories last May and after Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and YouTube removed Palestinian content, people switched to TikTok.

On the other hand, Israeli political analyst Yoni Ben-Menachem told Arab News that TikTok is a “tool of dangerous influence” and incites violence through videos glorifying attacks against Israelis.

Ben-Menachem added that TikTok content targets young people, who are particularly vulnerable to misinformation and propaganda.

Last May, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with senior officials from ByteDance, demanding that the company block Palestinian content. But Gantz’s appeal was denied, with the company only promising to pay more attention to published content.

Young Palestinians have filmed Israeli incursions into Palestinian cities and towns, house demolitions, arrests, killings, settler attacks and racist treatment, with the content going viral on TikTok.

Despite the Israeli government’s anger, officials do not expect TikTok to take any action against Palestinian accounts, whether based in the West Bank and Gaza Strip or abroad.

“Maybe TikTok will close a few Palestinian accounts, but thousands of accounts that incite against Israel will remain active, and whoever loses his account can open a new account under a pseudonym,” said Ben-Menachem, adding: “TikTok has become the most dangerous means of incitement against Israel.”


International community urges Yemeni parties to renew truce

International community urges Yemeni parties to renew truce
Updated 02 October 2022

International community urges Yemeni parties to renew truce

International community urges Yemeni parties to renew truce
  • Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Sunday urged the Houthis to “positively” comply with initiatives and efforts to renew the truce
  • Rashad Al-Alimi, president of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, expressed his government’s support for the UN Yemen envoy’s efforts to extend the truce

AL-MUKALLA: A six-month-old UN-brokered ceasefire in Yemen’s war between Iran-backed Houthis and the Arab coalition ended on Sunday with no word from the rivals on whether it would be extended.

The US, UK, China, other world powers and the secretary-general of the Arab League have all urged Yemen’s government and the Iran-backed Houthis to extend the UN-brokered truce.

Despite mounting pressure, only the Yemeni government had earlier agreed to extend the truce.

The US ambassador to Yemen, Steven H. Fagin, expressed concern about the various Yemeni parties’ hesitation to express their support for extending the truce.

“I call on the parties not to squander the progress of the last six months and to prioritize the Yemeni people by accepting an extension and expansion of the truce,” Fagin said in a brief statement. 

On Sunday, the UK Ambassador to Yemen Richard Oppenheim reissued the same call to the Houthis and other Yemeni parties to follow the UN envoy’s suggestions for extending the truce.

“I encourage the Houthis to work with the UN to extend the Truce. It’s the only route that will provide an opportunity for them to deliver benefits for ordinary Yemenis” he said on Twitter. 

The UN-brokered truce, which began on April 2 and has been extended twice, has dramatically reduced violence in Yemen, allowed flights to leave Sanaa airport, and eliminated fuel shortages throughout the country by allowing dozens of fuel ships to reach the port of Hodeidah.

The only term of the truce that has not been implemented is the opening of roads in besieged Taiz, as the Houthis have refused to open at least one main road leading into and out of the city, which is the main demand of the Yemeni government.

As the UN Yemen envoy, Hans Grundberg, shuttled between Muscat, Riyadh, and Sanaa to persuade Yemeni leaders to renew the truce, foreign diplomats and humanitarian organizations in Yemen sent last-minute appeals to both sides on Sunday.

“China emphasizes its support for the special envoy and is willing to make unremitting efforts with the international community to resolve the Yemen issue,” the Chinese Embassy in Yemen said in a statement. 

The EU’s mission in Yemen also demanded that the Yemeni government and the Houthis accept the UN envoy’s proposal, renew the truce, and implement its provisions.

“Time to consolidate and develop a truce, including opening roads and agreeing on the payment of salaries, that has delivered and can bring more benefits to the #Yemeni people,” the mission said in a statement on Twitter.

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Sunday urged the Houthis to “positively” comply with initiatives and efforts to renew the truce and work to alleviate suffering.

The latest UN proposal includes a six-month cease-fire while the Houthis open only minor roads in Taiz, paying public employees in their territories, while the Yemeni government covers any shortfall in payments, allowing more fuel ships to enter Hodeidah port, and opening new routes from Sanaa to Muscat, Doha, and Mumbai. 

Rashad Al-Alimi, president of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, expressed his government’s support for the UN Yemen envoy’s efforts to extend the truce.

During a meeting with the UN envoy in Riyadh on Sunday, the Yemeni leader stated that he is committed to supporting any peace initiative to end the war in Yemen and alleviate the suffering of Yemenis, and he urged mounting pressure on the Houthis and their Iranian backers to stop undermining peace efforts.

In Sanaa, the Houthis rejected calls to renew the truce on Saturday night, threatening to resume military operations, including strikes on oil companies in government-controlled areas.


UN Yemen envoy expresses regret after truce expires without being extended

UN Yemen envoy expresses regret after truce expires without being extended
Updated 02 October 2022

UN Yemen envoy expresses regret after truce expires without being extended

UN Yemen envoy expresses regret after truce expires without being extended
  • The ceasefire has twice been renewed since April. 2 but expired on Sunday without being extended
  • Envoy said the extended and expanded truce would have provided critical benefits to Yemen’s population

RIYADH: The UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg expressed regret on Sunday that an agreement to extend and expand the truce in the country had not been reached.

“The truce that began on April.2, 2022 has offered a truly historic opportunity for Yemen. Building on the positive outcomes of the past six months, I submitted another proposal to the parties on Oct.1 to extend the truce for another six months, with additional elements,” Grundberg said in a statement.

The ceasefire has twice been renewed since April. 2 but expired on Sunday without being extended.

The proposal included the payment of civil servant salaries and pensions, the opening of specific roads in Taiz and other governorates, additional destinations for flights to and from Sanaa airport, unhindered entry of fuel ships into Hodeidah port, strengthening deescalation mechanisms, and a commitment to urgently release detainees, the envoy said.

It also included the initiation of negotiations for a ceasefire, the resumption of an inclusive political process, and economic issues.

The envoy said that the extended and expanded truce would provide additional critical benefits to Yemen’s population.

He thanked the Yemeni government for engaging positively with his proposal and said he will continue to work with both sides to find solutions.

“I am grateful for the constructive engagement at the leadership level from both sides over the past weeks. And I appreciate the position of the government of Yemen on engaging positively with my proposal. I will continue to work with both sides to try and find solutions,” Grundberg said.

The envoy urged the parties to maintain calm and refrain from provocations or any actions that could lead to an escalation of violence in the war-torn country.

“I urge them to fulfil their obligation to the Yemeni people to pursue every avenue for peace. Ultimately, Yemenis need an end to the conflict through an inclusive political process and a negotiated settlement. I will continue my relentless efforts to engage with the parties to quickly reach an agreement on a way forward,” he said.


King Abdullah II to make official visit to Oman

King Abdullah II to make official visit to Oman
Updated 02 October 2022

King Abdullah II to make official visit to Oman

King Abdullah II to make official visit to Oman
  • Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Sultan Haitham bin Tarik will meet in Muscat

AMMAN: Jordan’s King Abdullah II, accompanied by Queen Rania and Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah, will arrive in Oman on Tuesday for an official visit.

The king’s trip comes after an invitation from Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, Jordan News Agency reported.

During the two day visit, the two leaders will hold talks in Muscat about their deep bilateral ties as well as the most recent regional and international developments.

 


Jordan, Qatar discuss security cooperation

Jordan, Qatar discuss security cooperation
Updated 02 October 2022

Jordan, Qatar discuss security cooperation

Jordan, Qatar discuss security cooperation
  • Jordanian official noted its keenness to support Qatar during the World Cup

AMMAN: Jordan’s Director of the Public Security Directorate and the Qatari Ambassador to Jordan met on Sunday to discuss strengthening security and police cooperation, particularly in training, Petra News Agency reported.

Brig Gen Obaidullah Maaytah spoke with Sheikh Saud Bin Nasser Al-Thani about Jordan’s deep ties with Qatar, noting that the PSD was eager to support Qatar during the World Cup.

In turn, Al-Thani praised the PSD and emphasized the level of cooperation between Jordanian and Qatari police, urging continued efforts to expand bilateral cooperation.