Palestinian Authority steps up diplomatic drive to counter Netanyahu regime

Special Palestinian Authority steps up diplomatic drive to counter Netanyahu regime
Palestinians take part in a Fatah rally in Gaza City, marking the 18th anniversary of the death of late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 12 November 2022

Palestinian Authority steps up diplomatic drive to counter Netanyahu regime

Palestinian Authority steps up diplomatic drive to counter Netanyahu regime
  • UN approves resolution asking ICJ to ‘urgently’ weigh in on Israel’s ‘prolonged occupation’

RAMALLAH: The Palestinian leadership is focusing on increased diplomatic efforts to limit the actions of Israel’s radical right-wing government whose agenda includes further weakening the Palestinian Authority. 

Palestinian sources said that Hady Amr, US deputy assistant secretary for Israeli-Palestinian affairs at the US Department of State, will arrive in Ramallah on Monday to meet Palestinian officials. He may meet President Mahmoud Abbas.

The president also received a call on Friday from key EU official Josep Borrell during which the latter assured him of the EU’s support for the two-state solution.

Abbas will chair a meeting of the PLO Executive Committee on Tuesday to discuss Benjamin Netanyahu's new assignment to form a new government in Israel with the participation of Israeli extremist right-wing parties.

The meeting will also discuss and develop mechanisms to implement the decisions of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s National and Central councils to stop all relations with the Israeli occupying state.

Senior Palestinian officials and Fatah leaders who spoke to Arab News confirmed that the current threat posed by the new right-wing extremist Israeli government against the PA is unprecedented.

They said the PA must adopt effective policies to counter what they saw as an “existential threat.”

Ahmed Majdalani, the PA’s minister of social development, told Arab News that the incoming Israeli government represented a severe threat to regional security and stability and the two-state solution.

He voiced concerns over a government in which Bezalel Smotrich could take over the ministry of defense or finance and Itamar Ben-Gvir the ministry of internal security.

These ministries directly impact Palestinians and will thus impact Palestinian-Israeli relations, Majdalani told Arab News.

He indicated that there would be fresh efforts to intensify political and diplomatic action to isolate the new Israeli regime.

“We will also strengthen our movement in the UN,” he said.

Majdalani said that the Palestinian government was currently evaluating the tangible steps it would take in light of the right-wing government, which is expected to seek to gradually annex Palestinian territories and perpetuate the division of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

He added: “We are concerned, and we are studying and discussing the matter seriously.

“The matter worries us, as it worries the neighboring countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel. It is embarrassing to the countries that have recently established normalization relations with Israel.” 

The PA suffered several setbacks during Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s term in office.

He froze the money collected by Israel on its behalf, expanded settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, ended support for the two-state solution, enhanced the division between the West Bank and Gaza Strip and refused to resume political talks with the PA.

Minister Ibrahim Melhem, spokesperson for the Palestinian government, told Arab News that the obstruction of the political horizon and the rise of the Israeli extremist right have shown the Palestinian leadership the urgency of strengthening the international presence of the PA.

Officials of the Palestinian government and the office of the Palestinian president confirmed their concern over the policies of the upcoming Israeli government and the measures it might take to undermine what remains of the PA and its security services.

Ahmed Ghuneim, a prominent Fatah leader in Jerusalem, told Arab News that the PA must expose, at the international level, the practices of the extreme right-wing Israeli government against the Palestinians.

He said the PA should call on the Arab countries that have normalized their relations with Israel in recent years to retract those decisions and to prioritize forming a national government that restores unity between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In their remarks to Arab News, high-ranking officials acknowledged that any measures the PA might take to stand in the way of the extremist right-wing Israeli government’s policies may not achieve the hoped-for success. It would be easy, they said, for Israel to thwart said measures, as the PA does not have control over the land.

Nasser Al-Kidwa, the former representative of Palestine at the UN, told Arab News that it was necessary to make changes within the current Palestinian leadership that would enable it to counter the policies of the upcoming Israeli government.

Al-Kidwa indicated that the current leadership might not have the ability to confront the danger threatening Palestinians.

Despite the recent developments, the PA is continuing its diplomatic efforts at the UN. The UN’s Special Committee on Decolonization adopted a draft resolution on Friday, in which the PA requested an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on Israel’s prolonged occupation.

The PA welcomed the unanimous vote of the UN General Assembly’s committee on Friday.

“The vote signals to all concerned that the Palestinian issue is still on the international community’s agenda and that Israel should not go far in its racist policies against the Palestinian people,” Melhem told Arab News.

The resolution approved at UN headquarters in New York asks that the ICJ “urgently” weigh in on Israel’s “prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of the Palestinian territory,” which it says are violating Palestinians’ right to self-determination.


Frenchman held in Iran starts new hunger strike: sister

Frenchman held in Iran starts new hunger strike: sister
Updated 8 sec ago

Frenchman held in Iran starts new hunger strike: sister

Frenchman held in Iran starts new hunger strike: sister
  • Philippe Valent, Briere’s France-based lawyer, called the espionage charges against him “fiction” and his trial “a parody staged by the Revolutionary Guards,” the branch of the Iranian security forces entrusted with the preservation of the regime

PARIS: Benjamin Briere, a French national held in Iran, has gone on hunger strike for the second time since his incarceration in May 2020, his sister and his lawyer said Monday.
Briere, who was sentenced to eight years in jail for espionage, is one of seven French and more than two dozen foreign nationals who campaigners say Iran has jailed in a strategy of hostage-taking to extract concessions from the West.
Held in the prison of Vakilabad in the eastern city of Mashhad, he had already gone on hunger strike once before, at the end of December 2021.
“It’s the only weapon he has,” his sister Blandine Briere said in a statement.
He stopped eating on January 28, she said.
Philippe Valent, Briere’s France-based lawyer, called the espionage charges against him “fiction” and his trial “a parody staged by the Revolutionary Guards,” the branch of the Iranian security forces entrusted with the preservation of the regime.
Briere, the lawyer said, is “mentally and physically exhausted” in the “gloomy” prison which he said was known for frequent “extra-judicial executions” of inmates.
Majidreza Rahnavard, 23, the second of four people executed over the protests, was held in Mashhad and hanged in public in the city on December 12.
The conditions of Briere’s incarceration were “exceptionally harsh,” and he was being denied his rights, Valent said.
Iran needed to be held accountable for the danger to Briere’s “physical and mental wellbeing,” the lawyer said.
Another detainee in Iran, 64-year-old Franco-Irish citizen Bernard Phelan held since October 1, last month suspended a hunger strike that included refusing water, at the request of his family who feared for his life.
Phelan, a Paris-based travel consultant was arrested while traveling and is being held in Mashhad in northeastern Iran.
Iran accuses him of anti-government propaganda, a charge he has denied.
 

 


Jordan Gaming Lab hosts video game development events across the country

Jordan Gaming Lab hosts video game development events across the country
Updated 07 February 2023

Jordan Gaming Lab hosts video game development events across the country

Jordan Gaming Lab hosts video game development events across the country
  • Participants in the two-day Global Game Jam were tasked with designing a video game based on a theme revealed during the opening ceremony

AMMAN: The Jordan Gaming Lab, a project developed by the King Abdullah II Fund for Development, hosted a free, video game development event at several locations across the country. The two-day Global Game Jam took place over the weekend at the lab’s branches in Amman, Zarqa and Aqaba.

The participants were tasked with creating a video game based on a theme that was revealed during the opening ceremony for the event. Sixteen games were produced and uploaded to the GGJ website.

The aim of the challenge was to provide participants with hands-on experience of working with advanced technologies, while taking advantage of help and advice from professional game designers from around the world.

The Jordan Gaming Lab was launched in 2011 to help boost the country’s video game industry and provide networking opportunities for those interested in being a part of it.

 


Dubai aims for complete switch to eco-friendly taxis by 2027

Dubai aims for complete switch to eco-friendly taxis by 2027
Updated 07 February 2023

Dubai aims for complete switch to eco-friendly taxis by 2027

Dubai aims for complete switch to eco-friendly taxis by 2027
  • By the end of the 5-year plan, the entire taxi fleet will comprise hybrid electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles
  • The plan is in line with the goal of the Roads and Transport Authority to ensure public transportation is emissions-free by 2050

DUBAI: Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority has endorsed a plan to make all taxis in the emirate environmentally friendly by 2027.

Under the five-year plan, the entire taxi fleet will complete the switch to fully hybrid electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles, the Emirates News Agency reported on Monday. This is in line with the authority’s goal of ensuring that public transportation is emissions-free by 2050. The RTA has already replaced 72 percent of Dubai taxis with hybrid vehicles.

“The results of experiments on eco-friendly vehicles, which RTA started trialing in 2008, confirmed the environmental benefits of reducing carbon emissions, fuel consumption and maintenance costs, as well as decreasing noise levels,” the authority’s director-general, Mattar Al-Tayer, said.

“Hybrid vehicles also have a longer lifespan compared with regular vehicles and cost less in the long run. They are characterized by lower purchase prices, maintenance fees, fuel expenses, insurance premiums, and other associated costs that potentially could be as low as 50 percent of regular vehicles.”

The initial phase of the plan, in which 50 percent of Dubai’s taxi fleet was converted to eco-friendly vehicles, succeeded in reducing carbon emissions by up to 420,000 tons a year, the Emirates News Agency said.

 


Saudi authorities arrest four found in possession of more than 63,000 amphetamine tablets

Saudi authorities arrest four found in possession of more than 63,000 amphetamine tablets
Updated 06 February 2023

Saudi authorities arrest four found in possession of more than 63,000 amphetamine tablets

Saudi authorities arrest four found in possession of more than 63,000 amphetamine tablets
  • Four have been referred to the Public Prosecution

RIYADH: The Kingdom’s General Directorate of Narcotics Control arrested four citizens found in possession of 63,443 amphetamine pills in the Eastern Region, Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday. 

The pills had an estimated street value ranging from $630,000 to $1.8 million, according to figures published in the International Addiction Review journal.

The four have been referred to the Public Prosecution.

 


Iran ‘shamefully’ celebrates amid cover-up of ‘horror after horror’: Amnesty

Iran ‘shamefully’ celebrates amid cover-up of ‘horror after horror’: Amnesty
Updated 06 February 2023

Iran ‘shamefully’ celebrates amid cover-up of ‘horror after horror’: Amnesty

Iran ‘shamefully’ celebrates amid cover-up of ‘horror after horror’: Amnesty
  • Regime ‘extinguishes opposition by denying massacres, spreading misinformation’
  • Authorities ‘have maintained an iron grip on power for decades … with absolute impunity’

LONDON: The Iranian regime is systematically covering up a series of massacres as it “shamefully” celebrates the 44th anniversary of the Islamic Republic, Amnesty International said on Monday.

A report by the organization details how key officials involved in the cover-up of prison massacres in 1988 did not face punishment for their role in disinformation campaigns, with Amnesty warning that Iran’s current regime “employs similar strategies to weaken international responses to crimes.”

The regime aims to “extinguish any form of political opposition” by “denying massacres, spreading misinformation and opposing international investigations” into “horror after horror,” added Amnesty, which has long campaigned for those involved in the cover-up of the massacres to be brought to justice.

In its report, it lists officials involved in the cover-up, singling out former representative to the UN Mohammad Jafar Mahallati for his role in undermining the international response to the massacres.

“In November 1988, he denied reports of mass executions at a meeting with the UN rapporteur and falsely claimed that ‘many killings had in fact occurred on the battlefield’,” Amnesty said.

Mahallati also used his influence within the UN to “water down” resolutions condemning the Iranian regime over the massacre, “pushing for a softer text that would merely welcome Tehran’s decision to cooperate with the UN Human Rights Commission,” Amnesty added.

Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:  “For decades, Iran’s government and its diplomatic representatives around the world have orchestrated denial and misinformation campaigns to mislead the international community and rob those affected and society at large of the right to truth.

“It is high time for Iranian diplomats to reveal the nature and source of instructions they received from the capital, and stop contributing to the shroud of secrecy surrounding the 1988 prison massacres, which has only entrenched impunity and compounded the suffering of survivors and relatives.”

Amnesty’s report drew parallels between the cover-up and the regime’s strategy toward the nationwide protests that broke out in September last year, with officials “resorting to similar tactics to discredit a new generation of protesters.”

Amnesty said: “Iranian officials in Geneva distributed lengthy briefings (in the wake of protester deaths), which blamed the killings of protesters on ‘hired terrorists,’ ‘suicides’ or ‘accidents’ or questioned the death of some victims.”

Eltahawy said Iranian authorities “have maintained an iron grip on power for decades through the commission of horror after horror with absolute impunity.

“They continue to systematically conceal the fate and whereabouts of thousands of political dissidents they extrajudicially killed in the 1980s and dumped in unmarked graves.

“They hide or destroy mass gravesites, and harass and intimidate survivors and relatives seeking truth, justice and reparation.

“Such crimes are not relics of the past. The 44th anniversary arrives amid a horrific wave of bloodshed around the latest protests, as well as arbitrary executions and death sentences targeting protesters.

“This highlights the need for urgent global action from countries around the world to bring Iranian officials involved in crimes under international law to justice in fair trials.”