Clashes in Sudan despite calls for Eid ceasefire

Update Clashes in Sudan despite calls for Eid ceasefire
Hundreds of people have been killed since the fighting erupted on April 15 between forces loyal to Sudan's army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. (AFP)
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Updated 21 April 2023
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Clashes in Sudan despite calls for Eid ceasefire

Clashes in Sudan despite calls for Eid ceasefire
  • At least 413 people have been killed so far in the violent power struggle which broke out last weekend between two previously allied leaders of Sudan’s ruling military junta

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s warring forces clashed again in the nation’s capital early Friday, with bombing and shelling reported in several areas of Khartoum, as they ignored appeals by world powers for an end-of-Ramadan cease-fire.
Both UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called separately for a cease-fire of “at least” three days to mark Eid Al-Fitr in the mostly Muslim country, as explosions and gunfire resounded in the capital Khartoum for the sixth straight night.
“On the night of Eid Al-Fitr, several areas of Khartoum were bombed and are still exposed to shelling and clashes between the armed forces and the RSF,” the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors said in a statement.
“We call on all citizens to exercise caution, stay home, close doors and windows and lie down. We also call on these forces to be responsible and immediately stop fighting to protect innocent lives.”

The capital has borne the brunt of some of the fiercest fighting, with most of its five million people sheltering at home without electricity, food or water.
Residents have struggled to sleep for nearly a week and been jolted awake by “the roaring sound of fighter jets and air strikes,” said Nazek Abdalla, a 38-year-old in southern Khartoum.
“We locked our doors and windows, hoping no stray bullets would hit our building, Abdalla added. “We wish the fighting would stop during Eid festivities. We know it will not happen though.”
Blinken “condemned the indiscriminate fighting” in separate conversations with both Burhan and Daglo, his spokesperson said in a Friday statement.
“He urged both military leaders to implement and uphold a nationwide cease-fire and sustain it through at least the end of Eid Al-Fitr, Sunday, April 23,” the statement said.

As battles raged Friday, Burhan appeared on television for the first time since hostilities began, to deliver an Eid address as in previous years.
Sitting behind a desk, dressed in military uniform and backgrounded by two Sudanese flags, he made no mention of a truce.
“For Eid this year, our country is bleeding: destruction, desolation and the sound of bullets have taken precedence over joy,” he said.
“We hope that we will come out of this ordeal more united... a single army, a single people... toward a civilian power.”
After two cease-fires failed to take hold in two days, gunfire continued Thursday night, with columns of black smoke rising from buildings around Khartoum International Airport and the army headquarters.
While many sheltered at home, others were venturing out despite the risks “to protect themselves and their families,” said architect Tagreed Abdin.
Beyond Khartoum, witnesses reported loud explosions in the city of Obeid, in the central state of North Kordofan.
“It reeks of death in some parts of town,” said one witness in Obeid.
The World Health Organization said Friday that 413 people have died and almost 3,551 more had been wounded in the fighting.
The fighting has taken a heavy toll on civilians, with the UN children’s agency UNICEF saying “at least nine children have reportedly been killed.”The World Food Programme (WFP) warned that the violence could plunge millions more into hunger in a country where 15 million people — one-third of the population — already face food insecurity.
It has suspended its Sudan operations after the killing of three WFP workers on Saturday.
Burhan and Daglo’s bitter dispute centered on the planned integration of the RSF into the regular army, a key condition for a final deal aimed at restoring Sudan’s democratic transition.
Around Khartoum and elsewhere, RSF fighters in armored vehicles and pickups mounted with machine guns have taken over the streets.
Many have mounted checkpoints to search cars carrying civilians trying to escape the worst battle zones to safer areas in Khartoum and beyond.
Civilians are becoming increasingly desperate — by Tuesday, thousands had fled the capital, with many reporting streets strewn with corpses.
Medics have warned of a catastrophe, especially in Khartoum, where many hospitals were reportedly caught in the crossfire.
Up to 70 percent of the hospitals in Khartoum and neighboring states have been rendered “out of service” by the fighting, the doctors’ union said.
It has warned the death toll is likely to be far higher than stated, with many wounded unable to reach hospitals.
Several countries’ evacuation plans have been put on hold, with the US Defense Department announcing Thursday that it was deploying forces “nearby in the region” with hopes of “securing and potentially facilitating the departure of US Embassy personnel from Sudan.”
The Sudanese army said 177 Egyptian soldiers were evacuated from the northern city of Meroe to Egypt, which confirmed their arrival. The RSF said later that it handed over another 27 Egyptian soldiers to the Sudanese Red Cross, and Cairo confirmed their arrival at Egypt’s Khartoum embassy.
The United Arab Emirates said it had “led” the mediation for the Egyptians held by the RSF.
Burhan and Daglo toppled autocratic president Omar Al-Bashir together in April 2019 following massive protests against three decades of iron-fisted rule.
In October 2021, they again worked together to oust the civilian government installed after Bashir’s downfall, derailing an internationally backed transition to democracy.


El-Sisi, Al-Burhan discuss developments in Sudan

El-Sisi, Al-Burhan discuss developments in Sudan
Updated 5 sec ago
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El-Sisi, Al-Burhan discuss developments in Sudan

El-Sisi, Al-Burhan discuss developments in Sudan
  • El-Sisi and Al-Burhan agreed on the necessity for an immediate ceasefire
  • Al-Burhan expressed his country’s appreciation for Egypt’s support

CAIRO: Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi on Thursday received Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, president of the Transitional Sovereignty Council of Sudan, at Cairo International Airport.

An official reception ceremony took place at Al-Ittihadiya Palace, at which the national anthems were played and guards of honor inspected.

The meeting focused on recent developments in Sudan and efforts to resolve its crisis.

The main goal is to restore stability while ensuring sovereignty, unity, and cohesion of the Sudanese state and its institutions.

The meeting was an attempt to meet the Sudanese people’s desire for safety and stability.

Ahmed Fahmy, the presidential spokesman, said that El-Sisi focused on the solid historic relations between the two countries, emphasizing Egypt’s support in enhancing cooperation.

The president stressed Egypt’s commitment to Sudan’s security and offered full support to achieve political, security, and economic stability.

He affirmed Egypt’s commitment to supporting Sudan’s unity and resolving ongoing conflicts.

He added that the two countries shared a close relationship, which made it necessary to ensure national security.

The president spoke of Egypt’s ongoing role in helping to alleviate the humanitarian impact of the current crisis within Sudan.

Al-Burhan expressed his country’s appreciation for Egypt’s support. He highlighted the long-standing ties between the two countries, while saying that Egypt’s role in hosting Sudanese citizens and mitigating the crisis provided evidence of its continued friendship.

The parties also discussed the situation in Gaza and regional issues of mutual concern.

El-Sisi and Al-Burhan agreed on the necessity of an immediate ceasefire and the urgent need to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

They also agreed to continue consultations and coordination to help benefit the populations of Egypt and Sudan.

The Sudanese leader made an official visit to Egypt in August last year, his first following the start of his country’s conflict in April. Al-Burhan and El-Sisi met in the city of Alamein in northern Egypt.


Palestinian president issues ‘categorical rejection’ of Israeli PM’s post-war plan

Palestinian president issues ‘categorical rejection’ of Israeli PM’s post-war plan
Updated 29 February 2024
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Palestinian president issues ‘categorical rejection’ of Israeli PM’s post-war plan

Palestinian president issues ‘categorical rejection’ of Israeli PM’s post-war plan
  • Netanyahu wants Israel to retain security control over Palestinian areas and make reconstruction dependent on demilitarization
  • Abbas charged that the plan confirmed the Israeli government’s intentions to recolonize the Gaza Strip

CAIRO: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has stressed “categorical Palestinian rejection” of the principles announced in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s so-called post-war plan for Gaza.

Netanyahu wants Israel to retain security control over Palestinian areas and make reconstruction dependent on demilitarization.

His plan, which brings together a range of well-established Israeli positions, underlines Netanyahu’s resistance to the creation of a Palestinian state which he sees as a security threat.

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit has received a written message from Abbas which calls for a global conference to adopt a comprehensive peace plan with international guarantees and a timeline for implementation of the ending of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Abbas has called on the league to support Palestine in obtaining full membership of the UN.

The message urged countries that have not yet recognized Palestine to do so.

Aboul Gheit received Ambassador Muhannad Al-Aklouk, representative of Palestine to the bloc, at the headquarters of the general secretariat, and Al-Aklouk had brought a message from Abbas.

Jamal Rushdi, a spokesperson for the Arab League chief, said that the president’s message included a categorical Palestinian rejection of the principles announced by the Israeli prime minister for the so-called “day after of the war.”

The message included a warning of the danger of those principles — especially the denial of the existence of the Palestinian people, and insisting on imposing Israeli sovereignty on the land extending from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.

Abbas charged that the plan confirmed the Israeli government’s intentions to recolonize the Gaza Strip and perpetuate the occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem through plans to build thousands of settlement units.

Rushdi said that the message warned that the goal of the Israeli government was not only to undermine the chances of peace based on the two-state solution, but also to intensify ethnic cleansing and displacement of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem.

The president’s message included the affirmation that the Gaza Strip is an integral part of the State of Palestine.

The Palestinian Authority is ready to assume the responsibilities of governance in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, and is prepared to work toward establishing security and peace, as well as stability, in the region within the framework of a comprehensive peace plan.

The message called on the Arab League’s chief to continue working for a ceasefire; the provision of humanitarian aid; the return of displaced people to their homes in the north; the prevention of their displacement; and a halt to Israel’s expansionist plans and practices in the Gaza Strip.

Aboul Gheit confirmed to Al-Aklouk that he would continue to work to achieve all the goals highlighted in the president’s message — most notably an immediate ceasefire, working to bring aid in urgently and sustainably, and standing with full force against the displacement plan.

Aboul Gheit stressed that stopping the war remained a fundamental priority for the Arab League and its member states.

He reiterated that the Palestinians, Arabs, and the world always rejected the displacement plan.

Aboul Gheit pointed out that addressing the humanitarian catastrophe caused by Israeli aggression could not be achieved in isolation from a settlement aiming at the emergence of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

He emphasized that the Palestinians were capable of governing themselves.

Aboul Gheit added that the continuation of the occupation was no longer possible and that the two-state solution remained the only formula capable of achieving security, peace, and stability between Palestinians and Israelis in the region and the world.


Israel says it’s still reviewing access to Al Aqsa mosque during Ramadan

Israel says it’s still reviewing access to Al Aqsa mosque during Ramadan
Updated 29 February 2024
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Israel says it’s still reviewing access to Al Aqsa mosque during Ramadan

Israel says it’s still reviewing access to Al Aqsa mosque during Ramadan
  • Al Aqsa, Israel’s third-holiest shrine, is a focus of Palestinian statehood hopes
  • Israeli controls on access have often stoked political friction, especially during Ramadan

JERUSALEM: Israel is reviewing possible curbs on access to Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem over the upcoming Ramadan fasting month, a government spokesperson said after media reports that the far-right minister for police might be overruled on the issue.
Al Aqsa, Israel’s third-holiest shrine, is a focus of Palestinian statehood hopes. The site is also revered by Jews as vestige of their two ancient temples. Israeli controls on access have often stoked political friction, especially during Ramadan.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said last week there would be a quota for members of Israel’s 18 percent Muslim minority who wish to take part in peace prayers at Al Aqsa.
That would compound the clampdown Israel has already placed on Palestinians since the Hamas’ cross-border rampage from the Gaza Strip on Oct. 7, codenamed “Al Aqsa Flood,” which triggered the ongoing Gaza war.
But Israel’s top-rated Channel 12 TV reported on Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would overrule Ben-Gvir.
“The specific issue of prayer on the Temple Mount, in Al Aqsa, is currently still under discussion by the cabinet,” government spokesperson Avi Hyman said in a briefing on Thursday.
He added that a final decision would take security and public health, as well as the freedom of worship, into account.
A Ben-Gvir spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. On Wednesday, Ben-Gvir posted on X that any attempt to override his authority would amount to a “capitulation to terror,” and urged Netanyahu to deny the Channel 12 report.


Two killed in Turkish drone strike on YBS fighters in northern Iraq

Two killed in Turkish drone strike on YBS fighters in northern Iraq
Updated 29 February 2024
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Two killed in Turkish drone strike on YBS fighters in northern Iraq

Two killed in Turkish drone strike on YBS fighters in northern Iraq
  • Two YBS fighters were in their vehicle in the Sinjar area when the drone strike hit them

MOSUL, Iraq: A Turkish drone strike in northern Iraq on Thursday killed two fighters from the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), a militia affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Iraqi security sources said.
Two YBS fighters were in their vehicle in the Sinjar area when the drone strike hit them, two security sources told Reuters.
There has been a long-running Turkish campaign in Iraq and Syria against militants of the PKK, YBS and the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which are all regarded as terrorist groups by Ankara.


Iran election seen as legitimacy test for rulers as dissent grows

Iran election seen as legitimacy test for rulers as dissent grows
Updated 29 February 2024
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Iran election seen as legitimacy test for rulers as dissent grows

Iran election seen as legitimacy test for rulers as dissent grows
  • Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called voting a religious duty
  • Parliament has no major influence on foreign policy or Iran’s nuclear agenda
DUBAI: Iran holds a parliamentary election on Friday seen as a test of the clerical establishment’s popularity at a time of growing dissent over an array of political, social and economic crises.
The vote will be the first formal gauge of public opinion after anti-government protests in 2022-23 spiralled into some of the worst political turmoil since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Critics from inside and outside the ruling elite, including politicians and former lawmakers, say the legitimacy of Iran’s theocratic system could be at stake due to economic struggles and a lack of electoral options for a mostly young population chafing at political and social restrictions.
Iran’s top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has called voting a religious duty. He accused the country’s “enemies” — a term he normally uses for the United States and Israel — of trying to create despair among Iranian voters.
The commander of the country’s elite Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, said on Wednesday that “each vote is like a missile launched at the enemy’s heart.”
But Iranians still have painful memories of the handling of nationwide unrest sparked by the death in custody of a young Iranian-Kurdish woman in 2022, which was quelled by a violent state crackdown involving mass detentions and even executions.
Economic hardships pose another challenge. Many analysts say that millions have lost hope that Iran’s ruling clerics can resolve an economic crisis fomented by a combination of US sanctions, mismanagement and corruption.
While establishment supporters will likely vote for hard-line candidates, widespread public anger at worsening living standards and pervasive graft may keep many Iranians at home.
Prices for basic goods like bread, meat, dairy and rice have skyrocketed in past months. The official inflation rate stands at about 40 percent. Analysts and insiders put it at over 50 percent.
The US 2018 withdrawal from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers, and its reimposition of sanctions, have hit Iran’s economy hard. Efforts to revive the pact have failed.
Reformists shun ‘meaningless’ vote
Iranian activists and opposition groups are distributing the Twitter hashtags #VOTENoVote widely on social media, arguing that a high turnout will legitimize the Islamic Republic.
With heavyweight moderates and conservatives staying out of Friday’s race and reformists calling it an “unfree and unfair election,” the vote will pit hard-liners and low-key conservatives against each other, all proclaiming loyalty to Iran’s Islamic revolutionary ideals.
The interior ministry said 15,200 candidates will run for the 290-seat parliament, with a vetting body called the Guardian Council approving 75 percent of initially registered hopefuls.
The unelected Guardian Council, made up of six clerics and six legal experts generally within Khamenei’s orbit, has the authority to scrutinize laws and election candidates.
Ballots will mostly be counted manually, so the final result may not be announced for three days, although partial results may appear sooner.
On the same day, Iranians also vote for the Assembly of Experts, which appoints and can dismiss the supreme leader. The 88-member clerical body rarely intervenes directly in policy but is expected to help choose the 84-year-old Khamenei’s successor.
Parliament has no major influence on foreign policy or Iran’s nuclear agenda. These are determined by Khamenei who holds the utmost authority in the country’s unique dual system of clerical and republican rule.
Polling has projected turnover of about 41 percent, while former lawmaker Mahmoud Sadeghi said on Monday that surveys showed the participation could be as low as 27 percent, significantly lower than 42 percent in a 2020 parliamentary vote.
Discredited after years of failed attempts at widening political and social freedoms, the pro-reform opposition suffered further unpopularity in 2022 when protesters scorned its mantra of gradual change.
The Reform Front coalition has said it will not take part in the “meaningless” election but has not boycotted the vote.