Violent clashes in West Bank after death in Israeli custody of Palestinian hunger striker

Violent clashes in West Bank after death in Israeli custody of Palestinian hunger striker
Palestinians rally holding posters following the death of Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan during a hunger strike in an Israeli jail, near Jenin in the Israeli-occupied West Bank May 2,2023. (Reuters)
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Updated 02 May 2023

Violent clashes in West Bank after death in Israeli custody of Palestinian hunger striker

Violent clashes in West Bank after death in Israeli custody of Palestinian hunger striker
  • A general strike also took place in the occupied West Bank to mourn Islamic Jihad leader Khader Adnan, 44, from the town of Arraba, south of Jenin
  • Israeli authorities announced at dawn on Tuesday that Adnan had died in his cell in Nitzan prison

RAMALLAH: Violent clashes on Tuesday broke out between Palestinian youths and Israeli army forces following the death in custody of a Palestinian militant leader who had been on hunger strike for 86 days.
A general strike also took place in the occupied West Bank to mourn Islamic Jihad leader Khader Adnan, 44, from the town of Arraba, south of Jenin.
Israeli authorities announced at dawn on Tuesday that Adnan had died in his cell in Nitzan prison. He had been refusing to eat in protest over his continued detention without charge since Feb. 5.
On hearing the news, Palestinian factions in Bethlehem, Hebron, Ramallah, Nablus, Tulkarem, and Jerusalem announced a comprehensive strike and blamed the Israelis for his death. Shops remained closed and many students were sent home from school.
Palestinian medical sources reported that rubber-coated metal bullets, fired by Israeli forces, injured five Palestinians while dozens of others inhaled tear gas from shells lobbed by troops.
Marchers demanded that Israel be held accountable for its crimes against Palestinian prisoners.
In a message to Israeli authorities, Adnan’s wife said: “Save the faces of my children well, and you will see from my children what you did not see from Khader Adnan.”
The Palestinian Authority also condemned Adnan’s death and demanded that the Israelis hand over his body to his family so that he could be buried in his hometown.
Palestinian groups accused the Israelis of medical negligence, claiming Adnan should have been transferred to a civilian hospital.
The Commission for Palestinian Prisoners’ Affairs revealed that an autopsy was to be carried out on Adnan’s body.
Israeli jails were put on heightened alert in anticipation of a backlash from Palestinian prisoners.
Israel’s Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir said any inmates trying to hunger strike or riot would have penalties imposed on their rights and services.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine described Adnan’s death as the “assassination” of a fighter who was one of the most prominent prisoners “who launched the battles of hunger strikes in rejection of administrative detention.”
Hamas said it held the Israeli government fully responsible for Adnan’s passing.
Adnan was arrested 12 times and spent around eight years in Israeli prisons, most of the time under administrative detention.
Qadri Abu Bakr, head of the Commission for Detainees and Ex-Prisoners’ Affairs, told Arab News that Ben-Gvir had admitted to issuing instructions not to provide any hunger-striking prisoner with food or the necessities of life, adding that it would join a long list of Israeli crimes to be reported to the International Criminal Court.
He said: “The international community must bear its responsibility. Had it not been for the continuous American and European support to the occupying power, it would not have gone so far.”
Qaddoura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, told Arab News that Israel wanted to use Adnan’s case as a deterrent against other Palestinian prisoners.
There are currently around 4,900 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, including women, sick and elderly people, and children.
Bethlehem Gov. Kamel Hamid, said: “We feel the overwhelming anger, horror, and shock over the occupation’s crime of the assassination of Adnan. It’s a deliberate killing. The people and the leadership lost a fighter.”
Mahmoud Al-Aloul, deputy head of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement, said Adnan’s death would be “added to the record of the occupation’s crimes.”


UAE assumes Security Council presidency with vow to tackle ‘deep divisions, polarization’

UAE assumes Security Council presidency with vow to tackle ‘deep divisions, polarization’
Updated 02 June 2023

UAE assumes Security Council presidency with vow to tackle ‘deep divisions, polarization’

UAE assumes Security Council presidency with vow to tackle ‘deep divisions, polarization’
  • Emirati envoy pledges to ‘build bridges and find space for consensus’
  • Signature event will highlight role of climate change in fueling conflict around the world

NEW YORK: The UAE will continue to play a constructive role in creating space for agreement and consensus on the many important issues facing the Security Council, the Gulf country’s UN ambassador pledged as she assumed the presidency of the 15-member body for the second time in the UAE's two-year tenure.

Lana Nusseibeh said that apart from the familiar issues on the council’s agenda, which include Syria, Yemen, Palestine, Libya, Iraq and Sudan, the UAE will host a ministerial-level signature event on “Climate Change and Peace and Security,” which will be chaired by Mariam Almheiri, the Emirati minister of climate change and the environment.

“Climate change is the defining challenge of our time,” Nusseibeh told a press conference at the UN headquarters in New York.

“Its scale, its complexity and the responses it demands are really unprecedented. (And) we’ve seen clearly how climate change impacts (the Security Council’s) ability to maintain international peace and security,” she said.

“So many of the discussions on the council’s agenda speak to this alarming dynamic and that will be the core focus of our meeting.”

This link between climate change and international peace and security requires “a carefully calibrated role” for the council, and the UAE aims to “build a common view on what this role could be in the future,” Nusseibeh said.

In November, Dubai will host the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference, or COP28. Since 1992, the forum has brought together governments in an effort to agree on policies to limit global temperature rises and mitigate the impact of climate change.

The UAE has pledged to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, the first Middle Eastern government to make such a commitment. It was also the first country in the region to sign the Paris Agreement in 2016, and has also invested $50 billion in clean energy internationally, with a promise to invest an additional $50 billion by 2030.

“We’re really honored to be hosting COP28,” said Nusseibeh, “not only because it’s an existential issue for all countries, including the countries of the Middle East, but because we hope to be able to contribute with our long-standing experience in the field of climate change and renewable energy to the deliberation.”

Another ministerial meeting will tackle “the values of human fraternity in promoting and sustaining peace,” and will be attended by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayeb.

Nusseibeh said that this event “couldn’t be timelier.”

She said: “It’s a time when the world is experiencing the highest number of armed conflicts since 1945, and across the globe we’re seeing an increasingly worrying rise in intolerance, hate speech, racism and extremism, all of which undoubtedly fuel violence and divide communities.”

The UAE envoy added that “these are threats to international peace and security, and they’re not limited to a single country or region.”

She said that the Security Council “has not always consistently addressed hate speech, racism and other forms of extremism as threat multipliers that drive the outbreak, escalation and recurrence of conflict.

“So, we think this is an opportunity to elevate that issue.”

Nusseibeh said the world “urgently needs political leaders to renew their commitment to peace, tolerance and human fraternity, and their actions should be reinforced by a whole-of-society approach centered on these shared values.”

On June 8, the UAE presidency will also host a briefing on “Enhancing Cooperation between the UN and the League of Arab States.” It will be chaired by Khalifa Shaheen, Emirati minister of state in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and will be attended by Guterres, as well as Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Arab League secretary-general, who will deliver a brief.

During the UAE’s last presidency in March 2022, the Security Council welcomed “the strong cooperation between the UN and the Arab League,” and vowed to solidify the partnership.

Council members also highlighted the importance of “women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in the prevention and resolutions of conflicts and in peacebuilding, as well as the positive contribution of youth.”

Nusseibeh said that this month her country will continue to build on those commitments, including through promoting the role of women and youth, combating terrorism, and fostering a culture of tolerance to strengthen and sustain regional peace and stability.


UNRWA chief warns agency will run out of funds within months unless donors step up

Children ride their bicycles in front of a health center run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza
Children ride their bicycles in front of a health center run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza
Updated 02 June 2023

UNRWA chief warns agency will run out of funds within months unless donors step up

Children ride their bicycles in front of a health center run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza
  • Philippe Lazzarini tells Arab News that it is high time to end the ‘dialogue of the deaf’ between donors and host communities, and reflect on what it means to be committed to Palestinian refugees
  • UN chief calls on donors to fully fund ‘one of the few rays of hope’ amid ‘darkening picture’ of 75-year conflict

NEW YORK: The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East is going through a “massive” financial crisis that threatens its very existence, the agency’s chief has warned.

Philippe Lazzarini said that UNRWA’s ability to “muddle through is slowly but surely coming to an end,” and predicted that by September it will have no cash to keep its schools, health centers and other critical services running.

Lazzarini was speaking in New York ahead of a pledging conference on Friday to support UNRWA organized by Csaba Korosi, president of the General Assembly.

The UNRWA chief said the agency is “about to implode,” lamenting the fact that even as the financial crisis deepens, some of its most committed donors have indicated they will “substantially decrease their contribution to the agency.”

He called on donors to “not take our ability to deliver services for granted,” adding that “sooner or later, we will reach a tipping point.”

UNRWA provides services to almost 6 million Palestinians registered in the occupied Palestinian territories and neighboring countries.

“I keep telling partners that UNRWA is not like any other UN humanitarian or development agency,” Lazzarini said.

“(The) uniqueness in this organization is that we are the only ones who are tasked to provide government-like services. We are, de facto, the ministry of education, the ministry of primary healthcare, the ministry of social services and the ministry of municipal services to one of the most destitute communities in the region — Palestine refugees.

“So, when we talk about adapting spending to resources, I am in no position to say, ‘Well, because we have 20 percent less resources, let’s ask 20 percent of our children to leave our schools.’ Based on which criteria? We have nearly 550,000 girls and boys in our schools. I cannot one year say that I will take 550,000 students and another year say I will take 100,000 students less and bring them back once the funding returns. That is not the way public-like services operate,” he said.

The agency has about 30,000 staff, most of them Palestinian refugees. It runs more than 700 schools for half a million children, and offers health, sanitation and social services, including food and cash assistance.

Palestinian refugees mostly live in often underserved camps that have been transformed into built-up residential areas in the occupied territories, as well as in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

Lazzarini said that over the past 10 years the agency’s resources have stagnated, while costs have increased in a region that has been hit by multiple crises.

“Expectations from Palestine refugees vis-a-vis UNRWA as being the only lifeline have also increased. (So) the tension between the costs and the resources has become more and more unbearable,” he said.

In the absence of a political process and in a context where the Palestinian-Israeli conflict “is not a priority anymore,” any decrease in UNRWA’s services would be perceived “as a weakening of the future rights of Palestine refugees,” Lazzarini said.

He urged donors to show “genuine political attention and commitment.”

Lazzarini told Arab News that UNRWA’s approaching 75th anniversary is a “perfect umbrella” to reflect on what it means to be committed to Palestinian refugees.

“This is a discussion that has not really taken place,” he said, adding that since he took up the post as commissioner-general there has been a “dialogue of the deaf” between host communities and donors.

“The donors usually tell you that you have to spend within your resource, but we keep saying, ‘Well, there is a limit to that. We have been involved in efficiency. It became austerity. And, today, going further would mean taking the decision to ask kids (to) be dropped from high school. This is something we cannot do.

“So, we need to have a proper discussion about what do we expect an agency like UNRWA to deliver, and once we agree on (that,) we become a predictable partner for the Palestinian refugees,” he said.

“This discussion has not yet taken place because there hasn’t been a political framework. But we as an agency cannot wait. Our worst enemy today is a status quo, and I’m looking at how to force a discussion, how a group of experts can come up with recommendations to be brought on the table and to be agreed with member states.”

In a statement to the pledging conference, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that UNRWA’s financial crisis comes against the backdrop of the deadliest year for Palestinians in about two decades.

Guterres expressed regret at not being able to attend the conference in person after he was called home to Lisbon because of a family emergency.

“Halfway into the new year, violence rages on without reprieve,” said Chef de Cabinet Courtenay Rattray, who spoke at the pledging conference on behalf of Guterres.

He reiterated the UN position that “there is no alternative to a political solution that realizes the vision of two states — Israel and Palestine — living side by side in peace and security, with Jerusalem the capital of both.

“The outlines of this solution are well known: They are laid out in United Nations resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements. But realities on the ground — from the continuing occupation to expanding settlement construction — are working against us.”

Rattray said that “in this darkening picture, UNRWA is one of the few rays of hope,” and urged member states “to nurture and sustain this hope,” and do their part to “ensure that UNRWA is fully funded.”


Lebanese opposition parties ‘reach consensus’ on presidential candidate

Lebanese opposition parties ‘reach consensus’ on presidential candidate
Updated 02 June 2023

Lebanese opposition parties ‘reach consensus’ on presidential candidate

Lebanese opposition parties ‘reach consensus’ on presidential candidate
  • Lebanon has been in constitutional crisis since Michel Aoun left the presidential palace seven months ago

BEIRUT: A Lebanese MP has said opposition parties have reached consensus on a presidential candidate, in an apparent breakthrough that could end a seven-month power vacuum.

Fadi Karam, of Lebanese Forces, told Arab News that “all signs were positive” that the Free Patriotic Movement, a one-time ally of Hezbollah, had agreed to endorse the nomination of Jihad Azour, currently the director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department at the International Monetary Fund.

“We reached an agreement with the FPM and we are looking for the right time to announce it officially,” he said after opposition parties met on Friday. “Each party might announce its stance, but what’s certain is that the FPM endorses Azour and will announce its stance individually.”

He said announcements could be made before Monday.

Karam added that Azour’s backers were “communicating with other parties, including the Progressive Socialist Party, the Moderation Bloc, and independents,” to secure more votes to secure the necessary 65 votes for Azour’s election. “Signs are positive,” he added.

Lebanon has been in constitutional crisis since Michel Aoun left the presidential palace seven months ago. There have been 11 failed election sessions by MPs since then, prompting the parliament speaker, Nabih Berri, to say that he would refuse another unless “at least two serious presidential candidates are presented”. He warned that “disruption and intimidation would be of no use or benefit.”

Hezbollah, the Amal Movement and their allies support the candidacy of former minister and head of the Marada Movement, Suleiman Frangieh. The FPM was Hezbollah’s ally before turning against it after it endorsed Frangieh’s candidacy.

Azour was first put forward by Christian parties and their efforts are now mainly focused on getting the FPM to approve his nomination.

Some other opposition parties meanwhile have supported Michel Mouawad.

Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi is among the opposition forces pressing speaker Berri to schedule an electoral session.

“Berri should have called a meeting two months before the end of former president Michel Aoun’s term, but some people violate the constitution,” Al-Rahi said after returning from a trip to the Vatican.

He said the Vatican and France had asked him to “work internally with other components, so Christian parties would agree on a presidential candidate” and that he would speak to anyone, “including Berri and Hezbollah.”

Barbara Leaf, US assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, said that the US administration was considering sanctions on Lebanese officials for their continued obstruction in the election of a new president.

She added in a statement: “The administration is very disappointed in the current situation in Lebanon, and is cooperating with its local and European partners to push the Lebanese parliament to carry out its duties.

“The Lebanese people’s representatives failed at doing their job, and the parliament speaker failed at holding parliamentary sessions since last January to allow deputies to nominate presidential candidates and vote for them to elect a president.”

In a visit to Lebanon in March, Leaf had warned against “the collapse of Lebanon as a state” and said that time had “started to run out.” She was surprised that there wasn’t “any sense of urgency on the part of many political leaders and deputies.”

Reformist MP Waddah Sadek said he was confident that two “serious candidates” would be officially nominated by the end of this week.

“The first serious candidate is Frangieh. Before next Monday, the second serious candidate will be announced, after receiving the approval of many parliamentary blocs and deputies,” he said.

“We will be looking forward to a speedy parliamentary session next week. If anything happens and the quorum is lost, we will consider this a new obstruction and a blow to what’s left of the country’s democracy, if any.”

Independent MP Bilal Houshaymi affirmed his support for “the Christian parties’ agreement to nominate Azour, whose professional position at the World Bank allows him to lead Lebanon’s recovery out of the abyss.”

Houshaymi said Frangieh “isn’t accepted by most Christian parties at a time when he calls for consensus.”

He said Hezbollah wanted to carry on with its statelet within the Lebanese state, even if at the expense of other components.

Mohammed Raad, head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc, said: “The presidential election isn’t about the people, but rather about who wishes the resistance well and who stabs the resistance in the back.”

Raad said Hezbollah "supports Frangieh because we are confident that he will not stab the resistance in the back and he is capable of being a bridge of communication between us and the others, including our political adversaries. He is also capable of communicating with our Arab surroundings, as well as with countries concerned with Lebanese affairs.”

Those opposing Frangieh’s nomination “are prolonging the presidential vacuum period and they want to dominate the country at the service of its enemies,” he added.

 

 


Iran releases 1 Danish, 2 Austrian citizens in operation involving Oman, Belgium

Iran releases 1 Danish, 2 Austrian citizens in operation involving Oman, Belgium
Updated 02 June 2023

Iran releases 1 Danish, 2 Austrian citizens in operation involving Oman, Belgium

Iran releases 1 Danish, 2 Austrian citizens in operation involving Oman, Belgium
  • Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said he was “very relieved” that Kamran Ghaderi and Massud Mossaheb were being brought home
  • Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg thanked the foreign ministers of Belgium and Oman for providing “valuable support”

BERLIN: Iran has released one Danish and two Austrian citizens, the European countries said Friday, thanking Oman and Belgium for their help in getting the trio freed.
Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said he was “very relieved” that Kamran Ghaderi and Massud Mossaheb were being brought home after “years of arduous imprisonment in Iran.”
Denmark’s foreign minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, said that he was “happy and relieved that a Danish citizen is on his way home to his family in Denmark after imprisonment in Iran.” He didn’t name the person, saying their identity was “a personal matter” and he couldn’t go into details.
Schallenberg thanked the foreign ministers of Belgium and Oman for providing “valuable support,” without elaborating on what form it took. Løkke Rasmussen also thanked Belgium and said that “Oman played an important role.”
Last week, a prisoner exchange between Belgium and Iran returned to Tehran an Iranian diplomat convicted of attempting to bomb exiles in France, Assadollah Assadi. Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele, looking visibly gaunt, headed back to Brussels as part of the swap.
There was no immediate word on what, if anything, Iran obtained in return for the latest releases.
On Friday, Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib tweeted that her country was “unwavering in our dedication to advocating for other Europeans who are being arbitrarily detained” and had “successfully secured the release of two Austrians and one Dane who were unjustly held in detention in Iran.”
Belgium’s prime minister, Alexander De Croo, said he had briefed his Austrian and Danish counterparts at a Thursday meeting in Moldova on the “imminent release” of the three prisoners “heading to Belgium via Oman.”
Iranian state media and officials did not immediately acknowledge a release on Friday, which is part of the weekend in the Islamic Republic.
Oman often serves an interlocutor between Iran and the West and brings released captives out of the Islamic Republic. An Oman Royal Air Force Gulfstream IV, which had been on the ground in Tehran for several days, took off shortly before news of the European trio’s releases came out. It landed later Friday in Oman’s capital, Muscat.
The releases also come after Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq visited Iran on his first trip there since becoming the Arab nation’s ruler in 2020.
Ghaderi is an Iranian-Austrian businessman who was arrested in 2016 and later sentenced to 10 years in prison for allegedly spying for the US, charges strongly rejected by his supporters. His family had criticized Austria for being silent on his case in recent years.
Mossaheb, also an Iranian-Austrian businessman, was arrested in 2019 and received a 10-year prison sentence after what Amnesty International called “a grossly unfair trial for vague national security offenses.” Amnesty had said Mossaheb suffered from heart failure and diabetes, making his imprisonment that much more dangerous for him.
Iran has detained a number of foreigners and dual nationals over the years, accusing them of espionage or other state security offenses and sentencing them following secretive trials in which rights groups say they have been denied due process.
Critics have repeatedly accused Iran of using such prisoners as bargaining chips with the West.
Schallenberg said his ministry would spare no effort to secure the release of a third Austrian national who remains in detention in Iran and whose case is currently on appeal.
Iran, facing Western sanctions over its rapidly advancing nuclear program, has experienced protests in recent months and economic strain. However, it also reached a detente with Saudi Arabia through Chinese mediation, and the International Atomic Energy Agency dropped two inquiries into the country’s nuclear program.


NATO chief to visit Turkiye for Erdogan inauguration

NATO chief to visit Turkiye for Erdogan inauguration
Updated 02 June 2023

NATO chief to visit Turkiye for Erdogan inauguration

NATO chief to visit Turkiye for Erdogan inauguration
  • Trip comes as pressure builds on Recep Tayyip Erdogan to drop his opposition to Sweden joining NATO
  • Turkiye and Hungary are the only two member countries yet to ratify Sweden’s membership bid

BRUSSELS: NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg will visit Turkiye at the weekend to attend the inauguration of re-elected President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and hold talks with him, the alliance said Friday.
The trip comes as pressure builds on Erdogan to drop his opposition to Sweden joining NATO.
Stoltenberg on Thursday said during a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Norway that he would soon visit Ankara to work toward Sweden joining “as early as possible,” after speaking with Erdogan by phone earlier this week.
The NATO statement said Stoltenberg would attend Erdogan’s inauguration on Saturday. The Turkish president was last week re-elected to serve another five-year term.
The statement said the visit would extend into Sunday and Stoltenberg would “have bilateral meetings with President Erdogan and with senior Turkish officials.”
NATO member Turkiye has dragged its feet over admitting Sweden to the military alliance. It and Hungary are the only two member countries yet to ratify Sweden’s membership bid.
Finland formally joined the alliance in April.
Erdogan has accused Sweden of being a haven for “terrorists,” especially members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom on Thursday said his country has fulfilled all its commitments to join, and “it is time for Turkiye and Hungary to start the ratification of the Swedish membership to NATO.”
Many of the ministers who attended the Oslo meeting said they wanted to see Sweden join before a NATO summit in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius on July 11-12.
Stoltenberg has said that goal is “absolutely possible.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, whose country is the dominant member of NATO, also said on Thursday that “we fully anticipate” Sweden joining by the Vilnius summit.