Sudan crisis traps Ethiopians displaced by Tigray war between two conflicts

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Updated 23 May 2023
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Sudan crisis traps Ethiopians displaced by Tigray war between two conflicts

Ethiopian refugees who fled the fighting in the Tigray region transport jerrycans of water at Umm Rakuba camp in eastern Sudan.
  • Strife-torn country was home to 1.1 million refugees before the eruption of violence on April 15
  • Outbreaks of fighting forced many Tigrayans to seek refuge in neighboring Sudan in recent years

JUBA: Tens of thousands of refugees who escaped ethnic violence in Ethiopia’s Tigray find themselves trapped in neighboring Sudan, once a safe haven for the region’s displaced, now itself the site of a worsening humanitarian emergency.

Adise Gemechu, an Ethiopian refugee and a mother of two children who has lived in Khartoum since leaving her native Tigray, says the Sudanese capital is in a state of chaos. “There are airstrikes. It’s terrible,” she told Arab News.

“We’ve closed our doors and are in the house. The children cry if I open the doors.”

Now over a month since Sudan’s conflict erupted, Khartoum has become a war zone, with families huddling at home as gun battles rage in the streets. Meanwhile, the western region of Darfur has descended into chaos.

Residents of Khartoum, a city of 5 million, have endured weeks of food shortages, power blackouts, communications outages and runaway inflation. Foreign embassies have suspended operations and hospitals, banks, shops and wheat silos have been ransacked by looters.




Ethiopian refugees who fled the fighting in the Tigray region transport merchandise using a donkey-pulled cart, at Umm Rakuba camp in eastern Sudan’s Gedaref State. (File/AFP)

Around 1,000 people have been killed, mainly in and around Khartoum as well as the ravaged state of West Darfur, according to medics. Saudi Arabia has hosted envoys from both sides in a bid to halt the conflict and allow humanitarian access.

In addition to the threat of being caught in the crossfire, refugees who remain in Sudan face significant difficulties accessing food, with many families forced to limit their meals to just one per day owing to scarcity.




A vehicle of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces drives down Al-Sittin Road in Khartoum, on May 22, 2023. (AFP)

As a result, many have been left in an impossible position — unable to stay put, but too afraid to risk returning home.

“Refugees face a painful dilemma of whether to go back to where they fled from,” William Carter, Sudan country director at the Norwegian Refugee Council, told Arab News. “It’s a tragic choice they have.”

The situation has been particularly difficult for Tigrayans who fled persecution as well as for refugees and migrants from Eritrea and other neighboring countries.

According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, Sudan was home to 1.1 million refugees prior to the eruption of violence on April 15 between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, making it one of the largest refugee-hosting nations in the world.

Now, more than 700,000 people have been internally displaced by the violent power struggle, and nearly 200,000 have fled Sudan for neighboring countries. There are fears for the stability of the wider region.

FASTFACTS

* Before the war erupted, Sudan hosted one of the largest refugee populations in Africa

* Sudan welcomed and assisted 58,000 Ethiopian refugees and asylum seekers (UNHCR)




Smoke rises above buildings in southern Khartoum on May 19, 2023. (AFP)

The situation in Um Rakuba refugee camp in the east of Sudan, which hosts around 20,000 Tigrayan refugees, is “deteriorating, with limited access to aid due to unsafe roads and markets hit hard by inflation,” Ahmed Shaweesh, a humanitarian aid worker for the Norwegian Refugee Council, recently posted on Twitter.

“Prices of basic necessities have skyrocketed, leaving refugees struggling to afford even basic items.”

In November 2020, a two-year war erupted between Ethiopia’s federal government and forces led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people, displaced millions and caused famine-like situations for hundreds of people.

Periodic outbreaks of fighting have forced many to repeatedly seek refuge in neighboring Sudan in recent years.

Maebel Gebremedhin, co-founder of Tigray Action Committee, was born in the Safaw refugee camp in Sudan in 1986 after her family fled the so-called Red Terror — a period of extreme violence and repression carried out by Ethiopia’s Marxist military regime known as the Derg.

“This is devastating. Being in Sudan was never the goal for the Tigrayans. This was just the opportunity to survive,” Gebremedhin told Arab News. “Right now, they are trapped in another war, experiencing devastation after devastation.”

Last November, the government and the TPLF struck a peace agreement in the South African capital, Pretoria, that allowed additional aid to reach the region. However, despite the pact, the situation remains dire for many Tigrayans.

“The peace process in Ethiopia seems to be working, but Eritreans continue to occupy some parts of Tigray, with the support of the Amhara region forces,” Mohamed Kheir Omer, an expert on the region’s affairs, told Arab News.

The continuing dispute over the status of Western Tigray, also known as Welkait-Tegede among members of the Amhara ethnic group, which borders Sudan, remains an obstacle to the return of displaced communities, he added.

According to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, the disputed area has been the site of multiple crimes against humanity and bouts of ethnic cleansing.

Tigrayan activists have broadly denounced the Pretoria peace agreement, citing allegations of the continued marginalization and dispossession of their people.

“The political negotiation was one-sided,” Leake Zegeye, an activist who fled the Tigray region when the fighting erupted in late 2020, told Arab News.




A Sudanese army armoured vehicle is stationed in southern Khartoum on May 21, 2023. (AFP)

“The Tigrayan people were not properly represented, and six months after its signing, the deal has been badly implemented.”

To achieve the security of Tigrayans caught up in the fighting in Sudan, Zegeye says the only solution is to resolve the dispute in their home country and permit them to safely return.

“My heart goes out to the people of Sudan because they have been very kind and accommodating,” he said.

“Refugees are now vulnerable to attacks; they must be put back to their rightful places where they were evicted from.”


Israel army unit facing US sanctions has history of abuses

Israel army unit facing US sanctions has history of abuses
Updated 39 min 42 sec ago
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Israel army unit facing US sanctions has history of abuses

Israel army unit facing US sanctions has history of abuses

JERUSALEM: An Israeli battalion which US media say Washington is likely to sanction over alleged rights violations against Palestinians, has a long history of transgressions and impunity, according to analysts and Israeli media.

The military’s Netzah Yehuda unit was founded in 1999 to encourage ultra-Orthodox Jewish men to enlist but has since accepted other religious recruits including residents of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, where Netzah Yehuda was deployed until 2022.

The unit has mainly attracted marginalized ultra-Orthodox youths “who see the army as a means of integrating into Israeli society and earning a living,” said David Khalfa of Jean-Jaures Foundation, a French think tank.

But it has also drawn “rather radical religious nationalists having strong hostility toward Arabs,” he said. “Marked by a strong ideological and sociological leaning, the battalion has acquired a scandal-prone reputation.”

Marwa Maziad, a visiting lecturer of Israel studies at the US University of Maryland, told the Middle East Eye website that unlike most army units, Netzah Yehuda relies on volunteers.

She said: “The battalion attracts religious Zionists, who combine Jewish religious interpretations with nationalist militarism” and are closely associated with the extreme fringes of the Israeli settler movement.

The West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967, is home to 3 million Palestinians alongside some 490,000 Israelis living in settlements considered illegal under international law.

“A large part of the unit’s soldiers were born and raised in the West Bank,” Khalfa said, noting Netzah Yehuda was often tasked with policing and “counter-insurgency” operations in the Palestinian territory.

“A significant number of them — not all — committed abuses and the army hardly imposed any sanctions,” Khalfa said.

The January 2022 death of Palestinian American Omar Assad, 78, at the hands of Netzah Yehuda soldiers in the West Bank drew attention to the unit, with the US State Department later that year ordering embassy staff in Israel to investigate the case.

Handcuffed, gagged and blindfolded, Assad was left lying on the ground on his stomach for more than an hour in a freezing winter night.

Following Assad’s death, several Israeli media outlets published reports detailing incidents linked to the battalion that had gone largely unpunished, including beatings of Palestinians and attacks on Bedouin citizens of Israel.

The Jerusalem Post newspaper said Netzah Yehuda troops effectively allowed settlers to attack Palestinians, while Haaretz, a left-leaning daily, denounced the “clear ideological connection between the residents of the settlements and the unauthorized outposts and the soldiers” in the unit.

According to Khalfa, “within the army there are lively debates” over Netzah Yehuda, with some military officials considering it “dangerous for the army to bring together so many young people sharing the same nationalist ideology.”


Emir of Kuwait arrives in Jordan for state visit

Emir of Kuwait arrives in Jordan for state visit
Updated 44 min 17 sec ago
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Emir of Kuwait arrives in Jordan for state visit

Emir of Kuwait arrives in Jordan for state visit
  • Aircraft escorted by Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16 fighter jets

AMMAN: The Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah arrived in Amman on Tuesday for a two-day state visit to Jordan, the Kuwait News Agency reported.

The emir’s aircraft was escorted by Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16 fighter jets as it entered Jordan’s airspace. Upon arrival at Marka Airport, he was warmly received by Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah.

An official welcoming ceremony took place, according to a statement by the royal court. The day continued with Sheikh Mishal and King Abdullah engaging in formal discussions at Basman Palace which focused on strengthening long-standing bilateral relations and enhancing cooperation to meet the aspirations of their countries.

Sheikh Mishal congratulated King Abdullah on the 25th anniversary of his coronation and spoke of Jordan’s progress under his leadership. The session was attended by top officials from both countries.

Sheikh Mishal was awarded the Al-Hussein Necklace, the highest civilian medal in Jordan, by King Abdullah.

The meeting concluded with a banquet hosted by King Abdullah in honor of Sheikh Mishal and his delegation, which celebrated the deep ties between Kuwait and Jordan.
 


US to begin Gaza aid pier construction ‘very soon’

US to begin Gaza aid pier construction ‘very soon’
Updated 52 min 2 sec ago
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US to begin Gaza aid pier construction ‘very soon’

US to begin Gaza aid pier construction ‘very soon’
  • Facility will consist of an offshore platform for the transfer of aid from vessels, and a pier to bring it ashore

WASHINGTON: The United States will begin construction “very soon” on a pier to boost deliveries of desperately needed aid to Gaza, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
Gaza — a small coastal territory — has been devastated by more than six months of Israeli bombardment and ground operations against Hamas militants, leaving the civilian population in need of humanitarian assistance to survive.
“All the necessary vessels are within the Mediterranean region and standing by,” Pentagon spokesman Major General Pat Ryder told journalists, referring to the watercraft carrying equipment for the pier project.
“We are positioned to begin construction very soon,” Ryder added.
The facility will consist of an offshore platform for the transfer of aid from larger to smaller vessels, and a pier to bring it ashore.
Plans were first announced by US President Joe Biden in early March as Israel held up deliveries of assistance by ground.
US officials have said the effort will not involve “boots on the ground” in Gaza, but American troops will come close to the beleaguered territory as they construct the pier, for which Israeli forces are to provide security on the ground.


Services at Dubai Airport back to normal after disruptions caused by storm

Services at Dubai Airport back to normal after disruptions caused by storm
Updated 23 April 2024
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Services at Dubai Airport back to normal after disruptions caused by storm

Services at Dubai Airport back to normal after disruptions caused by storm
  • DXB CEO Paul Griffiths says challenges remain, including baggage backlog
  • Regular flight schedules have resumed, with 1,400 flights operating each day

DUBAI: Regular flight schedules at Dubai International Airport had resumed by Monday following the storm early last week that caused the highest rainfall the UAE has experienced in 75 years, Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths said on Tuesday. About 1,400 flights are now operating each day.

“With roads in and around the airport 100 percent clear of water accumulation, our manpower, logistics and facilities are operating as usual again,” he added.

“To have the airport back up and running is no small feat. Also, 2,155 flights were canceled and 115 were diverted. We had to work closely with our airline partners and service providers to rework schedules, boost manpower and look after all those who had been disrupted.

“I’m continuously amazed by the unwavering dedication of our Dubai Airports employees, airline partners, government agencies, commercial partners and service partners. It has been the most challenging adverse weather event we’ve had to navigate, and our people and partners worked tirelessly to keep the operation running and to assist our guests.”

Griffiths said the welfare of passengers remained a central focus throughout the disruptions over the past week. After some initial difficulties in delivering supplies as a result of flooded roads around Dubai International and Dubai World Central airports, more than 75,000 food packs were successfully provided for passengers stranded at the two locations.

“While certain challenges remain, including processing the baggage backlog, we’re working closely with our service partners but know there’s still more work to be done and, once again, thank guests for their patience while we work through this,” said Griffiths.

“We’re deeply saddened by the ongoing impact of the heavy rainfall on affected communities and businesses across the UAE. We’re also supporting our own people who were badly affected by the weather and will continue to support wherever we can.”


US calls on Iraq to safeguard US troops after new attacks

US calls on Iraq to safeguard US troops after new attacks
Updated 23 April 2024
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US calls on Iraq to safeguard US troops after new attacks

US calls on Iraq to safeguard US troops after new attacks
  • “These attacks put coalition and Iraqi personnel at risk,” Air Force Major General Patrick Ryder told a news briefing

WASHINGTON: The US military called on Iraq’s government on Tuesday to take steps to safeguard American troops in both Iraq and Syria after failed attacks on Monday by Iran-aligned militia.
“These attacks put coalition and Iraqi personnel at risk. We call on the government of Iraq to take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of US forces in Iraq and Syria against attacks from these groups,” Air Force Major General Patrick Ryder told a news briefing.
“If these attacks continue, we will not hesitate to defend our forces, as we have done in the past.”