Sudan’s warring factions agree to allow humanitarian activities for civilians

Sudan’s warring factions agree to allow humanitarian activities for civilians
Representatives of the Sudanese Armed Forces and its rival Rapid Support Forces prepare to sign the Jeddah Declaration, witnessed by Saudi and US officials, during a ceremony in Jeddah on May 11, 2023. (SPA)
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Updated 12 May 2023
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Sudan’s warring factions agree to allow humanitarian activities for civilians

Sudan’s warring factions agree to allow humanitarian activities for civilians
  • Sudanese Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces signed declaration in Jeddah on Thursday
  • Talks between the two sides are being brokered by Saudi Arabia and the US

RIYADH: The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and its rival Rapid Support Forces (RSF) signed on Thursday a declaration committing themselves to International Humanitarian Law to facilitate humanitarian action to meet the needs of civilians.

In a document titled "Jeddah Declaration of Commitment to Protect the Civilians of Sudan", carried by Saudi state media, the warring parties also promised to prioritize discussions "to achieve a short-term ceasefire to facilitate the delivery of emergency humanitarian assistance and restoration of essential services."

Representatives of the warring generals — SAF chief Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and RSF paramilitary commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo — have been meeting since Saturday in Jeddah for “pre-negotiation talks” facilitated by Saudi Arabia, with participation of the United States and the United Nations.

"We agree that the interests and well-being of the Sudanese people are our top priority and affirm our commitment to ensure that civilians are protected at all times. This includes allowing safe passage for civilians to leave areas of active hostilities on a voluntary basis, in the direction they choose," the declaration said.

The two sides also affirmed their responsibility and obligation to "distinguish at all times between civilians and combatants and between civilian objects and military targets."

A joint Saudi-US statement said "the declaration will guide the conduct of the two forces to enable the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance, the restoration of essential services, the withdrawal of forces from hospitals and clinics, and the respectful burial of the dead."

"Following the signing, the Jeddah Talks will focus on reaching agreement on an effective ceasefire of up to approximately ten days to facilitate these activities. The security measures will include a US-Saudi and international-supported ceasefire monitoring mechanism," the statement said.

 

Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Friday said the talks that took place and the declaration of commitment to protect civilians is just a first step.

"Other steps will follow, and the most important thing is to adhere to what was agreed upon. The Kingdom will work until security and stability return to Sudan and its people," Prince Farhan said in a tweet .

More than 750 people had been reported killed and thousands wounded and displaced since fighting broke out in the North African country on April 15.

At least 18 humanitarian workers have been killed in the fighting, prompting many UN agencies and NGOs to suspend their work in Khartoum and Darfur. They have partially resumed their work, but remain wary of the continuing violence.

The UN’s World Food Programme said millions of dollars worth of food had been looted in Khartoum, Sudan's capital city.

The agreement commits both sides in general terms to let in badly needed humanitarian assistance after looting and attacks targeting aid in the impoverished country, Africa’s third largest in area.

The declaration calls for the restoration of electricity, water and other basic services, the withdrawal of security forces from hospitals and “respectful burial” of the dead.

A US official involved in the talks, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a proposal on the table would establish a new 10-day truce, which would lead, in turn, to negotiations on a longer-term end to fighting.

“This is not a cease-fire. This is an affirmation of their obligations under international humanitarian law, particularly with regard to the treatment of civilians and the need to create space for humanitarians to operate,” the official said.

“We are hopeful, cautiously, that their willingness to sign this document will create some momentum that will force them to create the space” to bring in relief supplies, she said.

The two sides also agreed for the first time on a way to monitor any cease-fire, officials said.

A second US official said the negotiations were “very tough” and acknowledged that both sides may have ulterior motives through the cease-fire monitoring.

“Candidly, there is some hope on both sides that the other side would be seen as being the perpetrator of violations,” he said.

But, he added that the length of time spent in brokering the first step would at least make the cease-fire more “effective” if reached.

Diplomats and experts have questioned whether the two sides want peace or if they are more interested in vanquishing the other.

The conflict erupted when the paramilitary forces, established and groomed by former dictator Omar Al-Bashir, refused to be integrated into the army in line with a pathway for a transition to civilian rule.

The US brokered a temporary truce and threatened sanctions on the warring parties last week after it expired.

Some US lawmakers have voiced alarm that the focus on the two generals essentially sidelines the pro-democracy forces.

“We cannot allow the civilian leadership of the groups that led the brave uprising that overthrew Omar Al-Bashir to be shoved aside,” Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat close to President Joe Biden, told a hearing Wednesday.

Also Thursday, the United Nations’ top rights body narrowly decided to beef up monitoring of abuses in Sudan, expanding the work of an existing special rapporteur.

But the vote was close. The move was led by Western countries, with 18 members of the Human Rights Council in favor, 15 opposed and 14 abstaining.

(With AFP)

 * * *

FULL TEXT OF THE DECLARATION

Jeddah Declaration of Commitment to Protect the Civilians of Sudan

Preamble
Recognizing the necessity of uplifting the plight and misery from our people resulting from the ongoing fighting since April 15, 2023, in particular in the capital of Khartoum, responding to urgent humanitarian needs of our civilian citizens, Responding to the various initiatives of the brotherly and friendly countries, led by the Saudi-American initiative, We, the undersigned, representing the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), with this Declaration of Commitment, reaffirm our core obligations under International Humanitarian Law to facilitate humanitarian action to meet the needs of civilians.
We affirm our unwavering commitment to the sovereignty of Sudan and to maintaining its unity and territorial integrity.
We recognize that commitment to the Declaration of Commitment will not affect any legal, security, or political status of the parties signing it, nor will it be linked to participation in any political process.
We welcome the efforts exerted by Sudan’s friends who can use their relationships and good offices to ensure respect for International Humanitarian Law and for international human rights law, including by committing to this Declaration and immediately implementing it.
None of the points listed below displace any obligations or principles under International Humanitarian Law and/or international human rights law that apply in this armed conflict, in particular the Protocol Additional (II) of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, and that all parties must meet.
Commitments
1) We agree that the interests and well-being of the Sudanese people are our top priority and affirm our commitment to ensure that civilians are protected at all times. This includes allowing safe passage for civilians to leave areas of active hostilities on a voluntary basis, in the direction they choose.
2) We affirm our responsibility to respect International Humanitarian Law and international human rights law, including obligations to:

a. Distinguish at all times between civilians and combatants and between civilian objects and military targets.

b. Refrain from any attack that may be expected to cause incidental civilian harm that would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.

c. Take all feasible precautions to avoid and minimize civilian harm, with an aim to vacate urban centers, including civilian houses. Civilians should not be used as human shields, for example.

d. Ensure that checkpoints are not used to infringe upon the principle of the freedom of movement for civilians and humanitarian actors.

e. Allow all civilians to voluntarily and safely leave areas of hostilities and any besieged areas.

f. Commit to safeguard the needs and necessities indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, which can include foodstuffs, agricultural areas, crops and livestock. Looting, ransacking, and ravaging are prohibited.

g. Commit to vacate and refrain from occupying, as well as to respect and protect all public and private facilities, such as hospitals and water and electricity installations, and refrain from using them for military purposes.

h. Commit to respect and protect medical transports such as ambulances and refrain from using them for military purposes.

i. Commit to respect and protect medical personnel and public installations.

j. Uphold and not hamper the right of civilians to pass and travel via roads and bridges, inside and outside the State of Khartoum.

k. Take all possible measures to collect and evacuate the wounded and sick, including combatants, without discrimination, and allow humanitarian organizations to do so; do not impede medical evacuations, including during active hostilities.

l. Refrain from the recruitment of children and the use of children in hostilities.

m. Refrain from engaging in forced disappearances and arbitrary detention of civilians.

n. Refrain from any form of torture or other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, including sexual violence of all kinds.

o. Treat all persons deprived of their liberty in a humane manner and provide principal humanitarian organizations with regular access to persons in detention.

3) We recognize that humanitarian activities solely aim to alleviate human suffering and protect the lives and dignity of persons who are not or no longer fighting. We agree on the need to allow principal humanitarian operations to resume and to protect humanitarian personnel and assets, including to:
a. Respect the fundamental humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, and operational independence.
b. Allow and facilitate the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief, including medical and surgical equipment, and ensure relief personnel the freedom of movement required for their functions. This includes:
i. Facilitating the safe, rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian personnel through all available routes (and any established humanitarian corridors) as required by the needs, into and within the country, including the movement of humanitarian convoys.
ii. Adopting simple and expedited procedures for all logistical and administrative arrangements necessary for humanitarian relief operations.
iii. Observing the implementation of regular humanitarian pauses and days of tranquility as needed.
iv. Refraining from interference with principal humanitarian operations and never accompany side by side humanitarian personnel carrying out humanitarian activities, in conformity with the Amended Directives and Procedures for Humanitarian Action in Sudan.
c. Protect and respect humanitarian workers, assets, supplies, offices, warehouses, and other facilities. Armed actors must not interfere in the actions of humanitarian operations. While respecting the principle of the neutrality of humanitarian actors, armed actors must guarantee the security of corridors for transport and areas for storage and distribution. It is prohibited to attack, harass, intimidate, or arbitrarily detain personnel, or to attack, destroy, misappropriate or loot relief supplies, installations, material, units or vehicles.
4) We commit to exert all efforts to ensure that these commitments—and all obligations of International Humanitarian Law—are fully disseminated within our ranks and appoint focal points to engage with humanitarian actors to facilitate their activities.
5) We will enable responsible humanitarian actors, such as the Sudanese Red Crescent and/or the International Committee of the Red Cross to collect, register, and bury the deceased in coordination with competent authorities.
6) We will take all necessary measures to ensure that all persons acting on our instructions, direction or control abide by International Humanitarian Law, and in particular the commitments provided for in this Declaration of Commitment.
7) In furtherance of the principles and commitments contained herein, we commit to prioritizing discussions to achieve a short-term ceasefire to facilitate the delivery of emergency humanitarian assistance and restoration of essential services, and we commit to scheduling subsequent expanded discussions to achieve a permanent cessation of hostilities.
Signed in Jeddah on 11 May 2023 with the facilitation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America.

(SPA)


Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens

Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens
Updated 25 February 2024
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Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens

Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens
  • Israeli delegation that went to Paris for talks on hostage deal returned on Saturday night
  • Qatar, Egypt and the United States have been spearheading efforts to secure a deal

JERUSALEM: -Israel’s war cabinet has discussed the next steps for negotiations toward a hostage deal and ceasefire in its war with Hamas, as concern deepens over the increasingly desperate situation faced by civilians in the devastated Gaza Strip.
An Israeli delegation that had traveled to Paris for fresh talks on a hostage deal returned to brief the country’s war cabinet on Saturday night, according to an official and local media reports.
National security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said in a televised interview shortly before the meeting that the “delegation has returned from Paris — there is probably room to move toward an agreement.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the meeting would discuss the “next steps in the negotiations.”
Local media later reported that the meeting had concluded with the cabinet agreeing to send a delegation to Qatar in the coming days to continue the talks.
As with a previous week-long truce in November that saw more than 100 hostages freed, Qatar, Egypt and the United States have been spearheading efforts to secure a deal.
Domestic pressure on the government to bring the captives home has also steadily mounted, with thousands gathering in Tel Aviv Saturday night at what has come to be known as “Hostages Square” to demand swifter action.
“We keep telling you: bring them back to us! And no matter how,” said Avivit Yablonka, 45, whose sister Hanan was kidnapped on October 7.
Anti-government protesters were also out in Tel Aviv, blocking streets and calling for Netanyahu’s government to step down as authorities deployed water cannon and mounted officers in a bid to disperse them.
“They are not choosing the right path for us. Whether it’s (the) economy, whether it’s peace with our neighbors,” 54-year-old software company CEO Moti Kushner said of the government, adding “it looks like they never want to end the war.”

After more than four months of shortages inside the besieged Gaza Strip, the World Food Programme said this week its teams had reported “unprecedented levels of desperation,” while the United Nations warned that 2.2 million people were on the brink of famine.
In northern Gaza’s Jabalia refugee camp, bedraggled children held out plastic containers and battered cooking pots for what little food was available.
Supplies are running out, with aid agencies unable to get into the area because of the bombing, while the trucks that do try to get through face frenzied looting.
“We the grown-ups can still make it, but these children who are four and five years old, what did they do wrong to sleep hungry and wake up hungry?” one man said angrily.
Residents have resorted to eating scavenged scraps of rotten corn, animal fodder unfit for human consumption and even leaves.
The health ministry said on Saturday that a two-month-old baby identified as Mahmud Fatuh had died of “malnutrition” in Gaza City.
Save the Children said the risk of famine would continue to “increase as long as the government of Israel continues to impede the entry of aid into Gaza.”
Israel has defended its track record on allowing aid into Gaza, saying that 13,000 trucks carrying relief supplies had entered the territory since the start of the war.
The war began after Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official figures.
Hamas militants also took hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 30 presumed dead, according to Israel.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 29,606 people, mostly women and children, according to a Saturday tally from Gaza’s health ministry.
The ministry said early Sunday that another 98 people had been killed overnight, with the Hamas media office reporting strikes along the length of the territory, from Beit Lahia in the north to Rafah in the south.

An AFP reporter said there had been a number of air strikes on Saturday evening in Rafah, a city along the territory’s southern border with Egypt where hundreds of thousands of Gazans have fled to escape fighting elsewhere.
The presence of so many civilians packed into the area has sparked concerns over Israeli plans for troops to finally push into the city, the last major urban center they have yet to enter.
Despite the concerns, including from key ally the United States, Netanyahu signalled Saturday night that the expected push had not been abandoned, adding that “at the beginning of the week, I will convene the cabinet to approve the operational plans for action in Rafah, including the evacuation of the civilian population from there.”
“Only a combination of military pressure and firm negotiations will lead to the release of our hostages, the elimination of Hamas and the achievement of all the war’s goals,” he added.
Netanyahu this week unveiled a plan for post-war Gaza that envisages civil affairs being run by Palestinian officials without links to Hamas.
It also says Israel will continue with the establishment of a security buffer zone inside Gaza along the territory’s border.
The plan has been rejected by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and drawn criticism from Washington.


Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens

Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens
Updated 15 min 51 sec ago
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Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens

Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens
  • Several Israeli media outlets said Israel tacitly approved a deal and that Israel would send a delegation to Qatar for further discussions
  • Hamas says it has not yet been involved in the latest proposal developed by the US, Egypt and Qatar

JERUSALEM: Israel’s war cabinet has discussed the next steps for negotiations toward a hostage deal and ceasefire in its war with Hamas, as concern deepens over the increasingly desperate situation faced by civilians in the devastated Gaza Strip.

Mediators made progress on an agreement for a weekslong cease-fire between Israel and Hamas and the release of dozens of hostages held in Gaza as well as Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, Israeli media reported Sunday.

Several Israeli media outlets, citing unnamed officials, said it tacitly approved the deal and that Israel would send a delegation to Qatar for further discussions.
Hamas says it has not yet been involved in the latest proposal developed by the United States, Egypt and Qatar, but the reported outline largely matches its earlier demands for the first phase of a truce. 

Meanwhile, an Israeli delegation that had traveled to Paris for fresh talks on a hostage deal returned to brief the country’s war cabinet on Saturday night, according to an official and local media reports.
National security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said in a televised interview shortly before the meeting that the “delegation has returned from Paris — there is probably room to move toward an agreement.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the meeting would discuss the “next steps in the negotiations.”
Local media later reported that the meeting had concluded with the cabinet agreeing to send a delegation to Qatar in the coming days to continue the talks.
As with a previous week-long truce in November that saw more than 100 hostages freed, Qatar, Egypt and the United States have been spearheading efforts to secure a deal.
Domestic pressure on the government to bring the captives home has also steadily mounted, with thousands gathering in Tel Aviv Saturday night at what has come to be known as “Hostages Square” to demand swifter action.
“We keep telling you: bring them back to us! And no matter how,” said Avivit Yablonka, 45, whose sister Hanan was kidnapped on October 7.
Anti-government protesters were also out in Tel Aviv, blocking streets and calling for Netanyahu’s government to step down as authorities deployed water cannon and mounted officers in a bid to disperse them.
“They are not choosing the right path for us. Whether it’s (the) economy, whether it’s peace with our neighbors,” 54-year-old software company CEO Moti Kushner said of the government, adding “it looks like they never want to end the war.”
After more than four months of shortages inside the besieged Gaza Strip, the World Food Programme said this week its teams had reported “unprecedented levels of desperation,” while the United Nations warned that 2.2 million people were on the brink of famine.
In northern Gaza’s Jabalia refugee camp, bedraggled children held out plastic containers and battered cooking pots for what little food was available.
Supplies are running out, with aid agencies unable to get into the area because of the bombing, while the trucks that do try to get through face frenzied looting.
“We the grown-ups can still make it, but these children who are four and five years old, what did they do wrong to sleep hungry and wake up hungry?” one man said angrily.
Residents have resorted to eating scavenged scraps of rotten corn, animal fodder unfit for human consumption and even leaves.
The health ministry said on Saturday that a two-month-old baby identified as Mahmud Fatuh had died of “malnutrition” in Gaza City.
Save the Children said the risk of famine would continue to “increase as long as the government of Israel continues to impede the entry of aid into Gaza.”
Israel has defended its track record on allowing aid into Gaza, saying that 13,000 trucks carrying relief supplies had entered the territory since the start of the war.
The war began after Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official figures.
Hamas militants also took hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 30 presumed dead, according to Israel.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 29,606 people, mostly women and children, according to a Saturday tally from Gaza’s health ministry.
The ministry said early Sunday that another 98 people had been killed overnight, with the Hamas media office reporting strikes along the length of the territory, from Beit Lahia in the north to Rafah in the south.
An AFP reporter said there had been a number of air strikes on Saturday evening in Rafah, a city along the territory’s southern border with Egypt where hundreds of thousands of Gazans have fled to escape fighting elsewhere.
The presence of so many civilians packed into the area has sparked concerns over Israeli plans for troops to finally push into the city, the last major urban center they have yet to enter.
Despite the concerns, including from key ally the United States, Netanyahu signalled Saturday night that the expected push had not been abandoned, adding that “at the beginning of the week, I will convene the cabinet to approve the operational plans for action in Rafah, including the evacuation of the civilian population from there.”
“Only a combination of military pressure and firm negotiations will lead to the release of our hostages, the elimination of Hamas and the achievement of all the war’s goals,” he added.
Netanyahu this week unveiled a plan for post-war Gaza that envisages civil affairs being run by Palestinian officials without links to Hamas.
It also says Israel will continue with the establishment of a security buffer zone inside Gaza along the territory’s border.
The plan has been rejected by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and drawn criticism from Washington.


Economy another victim of war in impoverished Sudan

Economy another victim of war in impoverished Sudan
Updated 25 February 2024
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Economy another victim of war in impoverished Sudan

Economy another victim of war in impoverished Sudan
  • With most banks out of service, the only exchange rate that matters to ordinary Sudanese is on the black market, where the dollar currently goes for around 1,200 Sudanese pounds

PORT SUDAN, Sudan: Before the Sudanese army and paramilitary fighters turned their guns on each other last year, Ahmed used to sell one of Sudan’s main exports: gum arabic, a vital ingredient for global industry.
Now he’s out of business, and his story encapsulates the broader economic collapse of Sudan during 10 months of war.
Since combat between two rival generals began on April 15, Ahmed has been at the fighters’ mercy.
“When the war began, I had a stock of gum arabic in a warehouse south of Khartoum that was intended for export,” Ahmed told AFP, asking to use only his first name for fear of retaliation.
“To get it out I had to pay huge sums to the Rapid Support Forces,” the paramilitaries commanded by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo who are at war with the Sudanese Armed Forces led by Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan.
“I had to pay multiple times in areas under their control, before my cargo got to areas controlled by the government,” Ahmed said.
But the government — loyal to the army — “then demanded I pay taxes” on the product, an emulsifying agent used in everything from soft drinks to chewing gum.
When the trucks finally made it to Port Sudan for export on the Red Sea, “authorities again asked for new taxes, and I had to pay storage fees six times more than before the war,” Ahmed said.
His gum arabic — like many other Sudanese products — never made it onto a ship. According to Sudan’s port authorities, international trade fell 23 percent last year.
The finance ministry, which didn’t set a national budget for 2023 or 2024 and has foregone quarterly reports, recently raised the exchange rate for imports and exports from 650 Sudanese pounds to 950.
But that is still far below the currency’s real value.
With most banks out of service, the only exchange rate that matters to ordinary Sudanese is on the black market, where the dollar currently goes for around 1,200 Sudanese pounds.
“It’s a sign of the destruction of the Sudanese economy,” former Sudanese Chamber of Commerce head Al-Sadiq Jalal told AFP.
To make matters worse, a communications blackout since early February has hampered online transactions — which Sudanese relied on to survive.
The war has led industries to cease production. Others were destroyed. Businesses and food stocks have been looted.
The World Bank in September said “widespread destruction of Sudan’s economic foundations has set the country’s development back by several decades.”
The International Monetary Fund has predicted that even after the fighting ends, “years of reconstruction” await the northeast African country.
Sudan suffered under a crippled economy for decades and was already one of the world’s poorest countries before the war.
Under the Islamist-backed regime of strongman Omar Al-Bashir, international sanctions throttled development, corruption was rampant, and South Sudan split in 2011 with most of the country’s oil production.
Bashir’s ouster by the military in 2019 following mass protests led to a fragile transition to civilian rule accompanied by signs of economic renewal and international acceptance.
A 2021 coup by Burhan and Dagalo, before they turned on each other, began a new economic collapse when the World Bank and the United States suspended vital international aid.
More than six million of Sudan’s 48 million people have been internally displaced by the war, and more than half the population needs humanitarian aid to survive, according to the United Nations.
Thousands of people have been killed, including between 10,000 and 15,000 in a single city in the western Darfur region, according to UN experts.
Now the indirect death toll is also rising.
Aid agencies have long warned of impending famine, and the UN’s World Food Programme is “already receiving reports of people dying of starvation,” the agency’s Sudan director Eddie Rowe said in early February.
The Sudanese state “is completely absent from the scene” in all sectors, economist Haitham Fathy told AFP.
Chief among those is agriculture, which could have helped stave off hunger.
Before the war, agriculture generated 35-40 percent of Sudan’s gross domestic product, according to the World Bank, and employed 70-80 percent of the workforce in rural areas, the International Fund for Agricultural Development said.
But the war has left more than 60 percent of the nation’s agricultural land out of commission, according to Sudanese research organization Fikra for Studies and Development.
In the wheat-growing state of Al-Jazira, where RSF fighters took over swathes of farmland south of Khartoum, farmers have been unable to tend their crops. They saw their livelihoods wither away.
From the wheat fields to Ahmed’s gum arabic warehouse, the story is the same.
His savings spent, his stock gone and his future bleak, Ahmed — like much of Sudan’s business class — has closed up shop.


Undeterred by latest US-UK strikes, Houthis target US-flagged oil tanker off Yemen

Undeterred by latest US-UK strikes, Houthis target US-flagged oil tanker off Yemen
Updated 25 February 2024
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Undeterred by latest US-UK strikes, Houthis target US-flagged oil tanker off Yemen

Undeterred by latest US-UK strikes, Houthis target US-flagged oil tanker off Yemen
  • Hours after the US-UK strikes, the Houthis said they had targeted the US-flagged, owned, and operated oil tanker MV Torm Thor in the Gulf of Aden
  • Houthi attacks are disrupting the vital Suez Canal trade shortcut that accounts for about 12 percent of global maritime traffic

WASHINGTON/CAIRO: US and British forces carried out strikes against more than a dozen Houthi targets in Yemen on Saturday, officials said, the latest round of military action against the Iran-linked group that continues to attack shipping in the region.

A joint statement from countries that either took part in the strikes or provided support, said the military action was against 18 Houthi targets across eight locations in Yemen including underground weapons and missile storage facilities, air defense systems, radars and a helicopter.

But hours after the strikes, the Houthis said they had targeted the US-flagged, owned, and operated oil tanker MV Torm Thor in the Gulf of Aden. The group’s military spokesman Yahya Sarea announced the new attack in a televised speech early on Sunday.

It was not clear if the attack announced by the Houthis was the same incident referred to by the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations agency early on Sunday. The UKMTO said that it received a report of an incident 70 nautical miles east of the port of Djibouti and authorities are currently investigating.

The United States has carried out near-daily strikes against the Houthis, who control the most populous parts of Yemen and have said their attacks on shipping are in solidarity with Palestinians as Israel strikes Gaza.

The months of attacks by Houthis have continued and have upset global trade and raised shipping rates.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the strikes were meant “to further disrupt and degrade the capabilities of the Iranian-backed Houthi militia.”

“We will continue to make clear to the Houthis that they will bear the consequences if they do not stop their illegal attacks, which harm Middle Eastern economies, cause environmental damage and disrupt the delivery of humanitarian aid to Yemen and other countries,” Austin added.

Earlier this week the Houthis claimed responsibility for an attack on a UK-owned cargo ship and a drone assault on an American destroyer, and they targeted Israel’s port and resort city of Eilat with ballistic missiles and drones.

The group’s strikes are disrupting the vital Suez Canal trade shortcut that accounts for about 12 percent of global maritime traffic, and forcing firms to take a longer, more expensive route around Africa.

No ships have been sunk nor crew killed during the Houthi campaign. However, there are concerns about the fate of the UK-registered Rubymar cargo vessel, which was struck on Feb. 18 and its crew evacuated.

The Houthis say they are targeting Israel-linked vessels in support of Palestinians in Gaza, which has been ravaged by the Israel-Hamas war.

Following previous US and UK strikes, the Houthis declared American and British interests to be legitimate targets as well.

Anger over Israel’s devastating campaign in Gaza — which began after an unprecedented Hamas attack on October 7 — has grown across the Middle East, stoking violence involving Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

 

 


Israel war cabinet meets over Hamas hostage talks

Israel war cabinet meets over Hamas hostage talks
Updated 25 February 2024
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Israel war cabinet meets over Hamas hostage talks

Israel war cabinet meets over Hamas hostage talks
  • “There is probably room to move toward an agreement,” Hanegbi told N12 News television
  • “Such agreement does not mean the end of the war”

JERUSALEM: Israel’s war cabinet convened Saturday after a delegation returned from talks in Paris on a hostage release and ceasefire deal in the war against Hamas.
National security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said before the telephone meeting that members would hear an update on discussions about the conflict in the Gaza Strip, which is now in its fifth month.
The Paris talks saw the head of Israel’s overseas intelligence service Mossad and his counterpart at the domestic Shin Bet security service meeting with mediators from the United States, Egypt and Qatar.
“There is probably room to move toward an agreement,” Hanegbi told N12 News television in an interview, without elaborating.
Israel wants the release of all hostages seized in the October 7 attacks, starting with all women, but Hanegbi added: “Such agreement does not mean the end of the war.”
He also indicated that Israel would not accept any deal between the United States and Saudi Arabia for a Palestinian state.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that Saturday’s meeting would discuss “next steps in the negotiations.”
He also reaffirmed his aim for troops to go into Rafah in southern Gaza, despite widespread concern about the impact on hundreds of thousands of civilians who have fled there to avoid bombardments.
An AFP reporter in Rafah said there had been at least six air strikes on the city on Saturday evening.
Israel’s air, land and sea against Hamas fighters in retaliation for their deadly October 7 on southern Israel has killed at least 29,606 people, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says.
Hamas attacked rural communities and military posts bordering the Gaza Strip, leaving at least 1,160 people dead, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
Some 250 hostages were taken, of whom 130 are still in Gaza, although about 30 are thought to be dead, Israel says.
A one-week pause in fighting in November saw more than 100 hostages released, the Israelis among them in exchange for some 240 Palestinians jailed in Israel.
Netanyahu has characterised Hamas’s demands for a ceasefire in Gaza as “bizarre” and vowed to press on with the military campaign until “total victory” over the group.
“Only a combination of military pressure and firm negotiations will lead to the release of our hostages, the elimination of Hamas and the achievement of all the war’s goals,” he said.
The head of Israel’s military, Herzi Halevi, visited the Gaza Strip and also said military action was the most effective way of getting back the hostages.
Combat was “leverage,” he told troops. “We need to continue and apply it strongly... to use it to release the hostages,” he added.
In Tel Aviv, where families and supporters of the hostages gathered again to call for their release, Orna Tal urged the government to “be responsible.”
“We think about them (the hostages) all the time and want them back alive as soon as possible,” said Tal, whose close friend Tsachi Idan was kidnapped from the Nahal Oz kibbutz.
“We’ll protest again and again until they’re back,” she told AFP