Arab nations at UN urge ‘concrete’ action after ‘provocative’ Ben-Gvir Al-Aqsa visit

Update Arab nations at UN urge ‘concrete’ action after ‘provocative’ Ben-Gvir Al-Aqsa visit
Itamar Ben-Gvir, an ultranationalist Israeli Cabinet minister, earlier visited the flashpoint Jerusalem holy site for the first time since taking office in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new far-right government. (AP)
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Updated 05 January 2023

Arab nations at UN urge ‘concrete’ action after ‘provocative’ Ben-Gvir Al-Aqsa visit

Arab nations at UN urge ‘concrete’ action after ‘provocative’ Ben-Gvir Al-Aqsa visit
  • World condemns violation of holy sites, international law, says Palestine ambassador
  • Over 50 delegations seek Security Council steps at emergency meeting

NEW YORK: Arab nations and various other groups at the UN have urged the world body’s Security Council — at a proposed emergency meeting on Thursday — to condemn the “provocative” visit of newly appointed Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem on Tuesday.

Palestine’s permanent representative to the UN, Riyadh Mansour, told Arab News on Wednesday that there was widespread support for action to be taken against the far-right minister and Israel.

Mansour said the groups were united in condemning actions that violated international law and the status of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque and Al-Haram Al-Sharif. He was speaking in the wake of a long day of meetings on Wednesday that saw over 50 delegations from various committees and international groups express support for Palestine at the UN headquarters in New York.

Ben-Gvir’s visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound has enraged Palestinians and spurred worldwide condemnation amid warnings about Israeli plans to change the status quo of the holy sites.

What Saudi Arabia has called a “provocative action” has mobilized diplomats across the UN missions in New York. On Wednesday, there was a meeting of the council of Arab ambassadors to the UN, followed by the council of ambassadors of the OIC, or the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Then 20 ambassadors representing the Arab Group at the UN held a meeting led by Mansour whose country holds the rotating presidency of the group for January. They were joined by the troika of the Non-Aligned Movement, and delegations from the OIC and the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

The flurry of activity was ahead of the proposed emergency Security Council meeting which was requested by Palestine and Jordan and supported by Security Council member the UAE, as well as China, France and new member Malta.

Mansour told Arab News: “You see that within the span of 48 hours the international community is reacting strongly and in a unified way against (this) fascist member of the Israeli cabinet Ben-Gvir.

“And to show, from the beginning of this government, that the international community will not tolerate, not accept, and will condemn and reject such steps which are in violation of international law and in violation of the historic status quo as it relates to the holy sites — the Islamic and the Christian sites in Jerusalem, particularly Al-Aqsa Mosque and Al-Haram Al-Sharif.”

Ben-Gvir, a far-right politician convicted of anti-Arab incitement in 2007, was appointed national security minister in Benyamin Netanyahu’s new coalition government, with expanded powers over Israel’s police. He has long called for Jewish prayer at Al-Aqsa, which has been the site of several conflagrations in the past between Israelis and Palestinians.

Hamas fought an 11-day war with Israel in 2021 after weeks of escalating clashes at Al-Aqsa. What is known as the Second Intifada also erupted after an inflammatory visit to the site in 2000 by the late Ariel Sharon, then leader of the opposition.

“The state of Palestine and the Palestinian people are so grateful for this massive support,” said Mansour outside the Security Council chamber where he was flanked by over 20 ambassadors from the Arab world and elsewhere, including Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN, Abdulrahman Al-Wasil.

“Almost all countries in all corners of the world are saying that the international community is the party to decide the fate of the two-state solution,” said Mansour. “It is the international community that decides the fate of defending and protecting the historic status quo in Jerusalem in defense of the Islamic and Christian sites in Jerusalem.”

The attack is not only against Islam’s holy sites, Mansour said, adding that Israeli extremists are also now a threat to “our Christian sites, Christian graveyards (that) are being trampled upon by extremist settlers. This is a toxic environment. The international community has to speak in one voice in rejecting this extremism, those fascist elements in the Israeli government.”

Beautiful statements, he said, would not suffice at the Security Council meeting. “We want implementation in a concrete way. We want this behavior not to be repeated, and we want a guarantee of honoring and respecting the historic status quo in deeds and not only in words.”

In his letter to the Security Council requesting the emergency meeting, Mansour called on the international community to act urgently to halt “the impending explosion of the situation in … Occupied Palestine and the grave threats it poses to international peace and security.”

Mansour urged the Security Council to “unequivocally condemn these illegal and dangerous actions and demand that Israel (cease) its violations and assaults on this holy site and fully comply with its obligations under international law.

“It is incumbent on the Security Council to remind Israel that it is the occupying power and has no sovereignty rights whatsoever in Occupied Palestine.

“The Security Council has the opportunity to act now to set the tone for this new year that the violation of international law and human rights will not be tolerated and that there will be accountability and consequences for the perpetrators.”

Ben-Gvir’s visit took place as tensions have mounted again between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank, with the past year the deadliest for Palestinians in the territory since the end of the Second Intifada.

Mideast peace only possible when Palestinians get full rights: Abbas

Mideast peace only possible when Palestinians get full rights: Abbas
Updated 17 sec ago

Mideast peace only possible when Palestinians get full rights: Abbas

Mideast peace only possible when Palestinians get full rights: Abbas
  • President urges states that have not yet recognized state of Palestine to do so immediately
  • Calls for peace conference that ‘may be last opportunity to salvage two-state solution’

LONDON: Those who think peace can prevail in the Middle East without the Palestinian people enjoying their full rights are mistaken, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday.
Addressing the UN General Assembly, he said Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory “violates the principles of international law and legitimacy while it races against time to change the historical, geographical and demographic reality on the ground, aimed at perpetuating the occupation and entrenching apartheid.”
Abbas said his country remains hopeful that the UN will be “able to implement its resolution demanding an end to the Israeli occupation of our territory and realizing the independence of the fully sovereign state of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on the borders of June 4, 1967.”
He added that Israel continues to attack his people, and its “army and its racist, terrorist settlers continue to intimidate and kill our people, to destroy homes and property to just steal our money and resources.”
Abbas said Israel “continues to assault our Islamic and Christian sacred sites … especially the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, which international legitimacy has recognized as an exclusive place of worship for Muslims alone.”
He added that Israel is digging tunnels under and around the mosque, threatening its full or partial collapse, “which would lead to an explosion with untold consequences.”
He urged the international community to assume its responsibilities in preserving the historic and legal status of Jerusalem and its holy sites.
He also requested an international peace conference in which all countries concerned with achieving peace in the Middle East would participate.
“I ask your esteemed organization and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to call for and undertake the necessary arrangements to convene this peace conference, which may be the last opportunity to salvage the two-state solution and to prevent the situation from deteriorating more seriously, and threatening the security and stability of our region and the entire world,” Abbas said.
He also urged states that have not yet recognized the state of Palestine to do so immediately. “I call for the state of Palestine to be admitted to full membership in the United Nations,” he said.
“There are two states that the entire world is talking about: Israel and Palestine. But only Israel is recognized. Why not Palestine?
“I can neither understand nor accept that some states …are reluctant to recognize the state of Palestine, which the UN has accepted as an observer state.
“These same states confirm every day that they support the two-state solution. But they recognize only one of these states, namely Israel. Why?”

Morocco sets aside nearly $12 bn for quake recovery

Morocco sets aside nearly $12 bn for quake recovery
Updated 44 min 47 sec ago

Morocco sets aside nearly $12 bn for quake recovery

Morocco sets aside nearly $12 bn for quake recovery
  • Fund to be used for reconstruction in places affected by the September 8 earthquake

RABAT: Quake-hit Morocco’s government announced on Wednesday a budget of more than $11 billion for reconstruction, rehousing and socio-economic development of areas hit by the deadly disaster.
The 6.8-magnitude earthquake hit Al-Haouz province south of Marrakech on September 8, killing nearly 3,000 people and injuring thousands more.
The government said in a statement it was setting aside 120 billion dirhams ($11.7 billion) to help 4.2 million inhabitants affected by the quake over a period of five years.
The funds would be used to “rehouse affected people, reconstruct homes and restore infrastructure,” said the statement published at the end of a meeting chaired by King Mohammed VI.
The earthquake razed thousands of homes in central Morocco, including the High Atlas mountain range, forcing families to sleep out in the open with winter around the corner.



Kuwait affirms countries’ right to maintain independence, territorial sanctity

Kuwait affirms countries’ right to maintain independence, territorial sanctity
Updated 21 September 2023

Kuwait affirms countries’ right to maintain independence, territorial sanctity

Kuwait affirms countries’ right to maintain independence, territorial sanctity
  • Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sheikh Jarrah Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah emphasizes nonintervention in states’ internal affairs and the need for conflicts to be resolved peacefully
  • Al-Sabah delivers address on safeguarding global peace at UN Security Council session on margins of 78th UN General Assembly

NEW YORK: Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sheikh Jarrah Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah affirmed countries’ right to maintain sovereignty, independence and territorial sanctity in a speech during a UN Security Council session.
Addressing a session on safeguarding global peace on the margins of the 78th UN General Assembly, Al-Sabah emphasized nonintervention in states’ internal affairs, resolving conflicts peacefully and abstaining from the use of force, as well as people’s right to self-determination, and encouraging respect for human rights.
Kuwait News Agency reported on Thursday that the deputy foreign minister underlined the significance of the UN charter’s goals and principles, especially the “role in defending small countries.”
Al-Sabah said that due to a range of issues, the global order is facing its toughest test since the UN’s establishment in 1945.
“The international community has no choice other than uniting to face regional and international challenges.
“Kuwait renews its rejection of using force or resorting to threats in the relations among states,” KUNA reported Al-Sabah as saying.
Al-Sabah called for Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty to be respected.
“We call on the parties (of the Ukrainian conflict) to abide by the rule of the international law and the humanitarian law in respect of protecting civilians, facilitating safe and rapid delivery of humanitarian aid to those in need,” he told the UN session.
Al-Sabah also called for the Black Sea grain deal to be renewed.

Lone gunman fires at US Embassy in Lebanon

Lone gunman fires at US Embassy in Lebanon
Updated 21 September 2023

Lone gunman fires at US Embassy in Lebanon

Lone gunman fires at US Embassy in Lebanon
  • Surveillance cameras showed a lone gunman dressed in black firing a Kalashnikov rifle before fleeing the scene on a motorcycle
  • Embassy spokesman Jake Nelson: There were no injuries and our facility is safe

BEIRUT: Lebanese security forces are investigating a late-night gun attack on the US Embassy in Beirut in which more than a dozen shots were fired.

The diplomatic mission said that no one was hurt in the incident late on Wednesday.

Surveillance cameras showed a lone gunman dressed in black firing a Kalashnikov rifle before fleeing the scene on a motorcycle.

Embassy spokesman Jake Nelson said: “There were no injuries and our facility is safe,” adding that the mission was in “close contact” with local law enforcement.

Lebanese military police marked at least five bullet holes in the wall next to the embassy entrance.

The military judiciary has taken over the investigation into the attack.

A judicial source told Arab News that the shooting was likely “a political message to the embassy rather than a security incident.”

The source said that a bag had been found near the embassy’s perimeter, but “its contents or possible connection to the incident remain undisclosed.”

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack on the heavily guarded compound.

The Lebanese army has beefed up security around the site.

An army checkpoint, hundreds of meters away, monitors anyone using the road.

Reformist MP Melhem Khalaf described the incident as “an extremely dangerous and unacceptable attack, reflecting both the fragility of the security situation on the one hand and an unprecedented audacity in conveying messages on the other, as if we have become a banana republic.”

Khalaf said: “In order to nip in the bud any conspiracy or any rogue security project that may target Lebanon, the judiciary and security services must act immediately to identify the perpetrators, arrest them, and impose the harshest penalties on them.”

The head of the Lebanese Kataeb Party, MP Samy Gemayel, said: “Checkpoints, identity checks and shots fired at embassies are scenes that the Lebanese people want to eliminate by building a respected state. Beware of the escalation of these incidents, as they will not be in anyone’s interest, especially those who instigate them.”

MP Ziad Hawat warned against “playing with fire at this critical and sensitive moment,” adding that “Lebanon can no longer tolerate the policy of serving as a mailbox and sending messages to serve foreign interests.”

Independent Beirut MP Fouad Makhzoumi said: “The US has always stood by Lebanon and its people, supported and backed it in all circumstances and during the most difficult ordeals it has faced.”

The attack and “other such suspicious practices, tarnish the true image of Lebanon and do not represent it in any way, jeopardizing its international relations,” he said.

Alfred Riachi, secretary-general of the Permanent Conference of Federalism, said: “The message of the de facto forces has reached the Army Commander, Gen. Joseph Aoun.”

The embassy attack comes amid rumors circulating in Beirut regarding US opposition to a French initiative to hold talks between rival Lebanese paries on the election of a president.

The divided Lebanese parliament, with Hezbollah supporters and Christian parties opposed to its candidate Suleiman Frangieh, has been unable to secure a quorum for any candidate.

The year-old presidential vacuum could now extend to key positions of power, including the army command, presidency of the Supreme Judicial Council, and governorship of the central bank, all of which are Christian positions.

In an address to mark International Day of Peace on Thursday, Joanna Wronecka, the UN special coordinator for Lebanon, warned that “the presidential vacuum, the political impasse, and a protracted socioeconomic and financial crisis were undermining the ability of state institutions to deliver, widening the gap of poverty and inequality, and imperiling the country’s stability.

“The deepening political polarization and intransigence is threatening Lebanon’s social cohesion and the sense of belonging among its people. Political leaders must act in the national interest, and seek real and practical solutions for a better future for their country,” she said.

International community must help stop Houthi militias: Yemeni president

Chairman of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, Rashad Al-Alimi, addresses 78th UNGA in New York City on September 21, 2023
Chairman of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, Rashad Al-Alimi, addresses 78th UNGA in New York City on September 21, 2023
Updated 21 September 2023

International community must help stop Houthi militias: Yemeni president

Chairman of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, Rashad Al-Alimi, addresses 78th UNGA in New York City on September 21, 2023
  • Rashid Al-Alimi, chairman of the Presidential Leadership Council of Yemen, spoke at the UN General Assembly in New York
  • Al-Alimi condemned Houthi militia activity in his country and called for international support to end the decade-long conflict

NEW YORK: The world must do more to stop the flow of arms and resources to Iran-backed Houthi militias, Rashid Al-Alimi, the chairman of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, said on Thursday.

Al-Alimi, the opening speaker at the 8th plenary meeting of the 78th UN General Assembly’s general debate in New York, strongly condemned human rights violations committed by the Houthis since the conflict erupted in Yemen almost a decade ago.

He first called for “an end to the suffering of the Yemeni people,” and commended the international community for supporting “the constitutional legitimacy, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Yemen and noninterference in its international affairs.”

Al-Alimi said that despite attempted compromises and efforts by the government, “peace remains elusive” in Yemen.

“We do hope that the militias will recognize the truth — that only a state that is based on the rule of law and equal citizenship will help to make sure that our country is stable and safe. These are the demands of the legitimate government,” he said.

Al-Alimi warned that if Houthi militias are allowed to continue their insurgency unchecked, “our country may become a hotspot for exporting terrorism.”

He added: “If we deal with the militias as a de facto authority, this means that oppression, the violation of freedoms — we will not be able to eradicate this behavior easily.”

Houthi militias are using peace agreements to prolong the conflict and gain time to gather more resources, he said.

Sustaining peace and ending the war is the only way to guarantee rights, freedom and equality for the Yemeni people, and build good relations with other Gulf Cooperation Council countries, Al-Alimi said.

He called for the strengthening of the Yemeni economy via the country’s central bank in order to improve service conditions in Yemen and prevent funds from falling into the hands of the Houthis.

“The institutions of Yemen will remain underfunded and will not have the necessary resources to deal with these cross-border challenges” if funds are not directed to recognized governmental financial institutions, Al-Alimi said.

He ended his speech with a call for the international community to intervene in Yemen to end Houthi activity in the region.

“Every delay from the international community to be firmer when it comes to the Yemeni dossier will increase losses, and Houthi militias will continue with their cross-border threats. They will continue to commit grave violations of human rights,” he said.

Al-Alimi said that although the Yemeni budget and economy was strong enough to allow for the provision of adequate services for the Yemeni people at the beginning of the war, Houthi attacks on oil facilities had halted the pre-war economic momentum.

“Houthi militias recently escalated their threats, targeting navigation routes in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. They’ve used these as military areas. They’ve tested new weapons. They’ve targeted commercial ships and tankers. These militias, supported by the Iranian regime, continue to destabilize the region,” he said.

Al-Alimi said that his speech took place on the ninth anniversary of the Houthi takeover in Yemen. He called on UN member states to commit to an arms embargo to stop Houthi access to weaponry such as ballistic missiles and drones.

He also thanked Saudi Arabia for a “generous donation of $1.2 billion to support our public budget,” saying that without the grant, “we would have been unable to honor our obligations, including the disbursement of salaries.”