Sudan war hits two-month mark as peace efforts hit hurdles

Sudan war hits two-month mark as peace efforts hit hurdles
People walk among scattered objects in the market of El-Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, as fighting continues in Sudan between the forces of two rival generals, on April 29, 2023. (AFP/File)
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Updated 15 June 2023
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Sudan war hits two-month mark as peace efforts hit hurdles

Sudan war hits two-month mark as peace efforts hit hurdles
  • The fighting has since expanded, hitting key cities in the west of the country, worst of all the city of El Geneina, West Darfur
  • The governor of West Darfur, Khamis Abbakar, was killed

CAIRO/DUBAI: The conflict in Sudan hit the two-month mark on Thursday with no sign of a resolution as diplomatic peace efforts hit roadblocks and the risk of a broader ethnic war rises.
Fighting between the army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which a US diplomat earlier this week described as “suicidal” behavior, has displaced 2.2 million people and killed at least 1,000, an underestimate according to medics.
It has shut down the economy, plunging millions of Sudanese into hunger and dependence on foreign aid, and shattered the health system.
The army and RSF, which together ousted autocrat Omar Al-Bashir in 2019, began fighting in the heart of the capital on April 15 after disagreeing over the integration of their troops under a new transition to democracy.
The fighting has since expanded, hitting key cities in the west of the country, worst of all the city of El Geneina, West Darfur, where activists say 1,100 people have been killed and the UN says 150,000 people have fled to Chad.
On Wednesday, the governor of West Darfur, Khamis Abbakar, accused the RSF and allied Arab militias of carrying out a genocidal attack in El Geneina.
Hours later, Abbakar was killed, and the Sudanese Alliance armed group he led blamed the RSF for killing him while in their custody.
The RSF denied responsibility, saying that Abbakar had actually sought refuge with the forces but that rogue tribal actors had “kidnapped him and killed him in cold blood.”
The killing of Abbakar, who hails from the Masalit tribe he said was targeted by the attacks, threatens to expand the fighting in El Geneina which has already brought the city to its knees.
“I saw many bodies in the streets. No one dares to bury them,” said one man, asking to withhold his name.
Fighting has also broken out in other Darfur state capitals, including Nyala, Elfashir, and Zalingei and the Kordofan cities of El Obeid and Kadugli, threatening to agitate long-simmering ethnic tensions.
“The longer the conflict lasts, it may end up taking an ethnic and regional dimension in ... parts of the country,” said Suliman Baldo of the Sudanese Transparency and Policy Tracker.
The incoming rainy season threatens to make the delivery of already limited assistance and migration of hundreds of thousands out of war zones, often on foot, impossible.

Unsuccessful diplomacy 
The RSF evolved out of the janjaweed militias that wreaked havoc in Darfur in the early 2000s, and in 2017 became a legalized government force under commander General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.
Fighting between the RSF, which has embedded itself in residential areas of Khartoum, and the army, which has launched extensive artillery and air strikes, shows no signs of letting up.
On Thursday, residents in Khartoum and its neighboring cities Omdurman and Bahri reported clashes, artillery shelling and air strikes near residential areas.
After multiple failed cease-fires, US diplomats earlier this week conceded that negotiations in Jeddah had not been successful and were considering other paths.
IGAD, a regional East African organization, this week also launched a mediation effort chaired by Kenya to bring Dagalo and army chief General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan together at a meeting Ethiopia said it would host.
But in a statement on Thursday, Sudan’s foreign ministry, controlled by the army, accused Kenya of harboring the RSF, and said it preferred South Sudanese leadership of the initiative.
Meanwhile Khartoum residents have accused RSF soldiers and armed gangs of looting homes. East Khartoum resident Waleed Adam said that two men, one in RSF uniform, showed up at his door pointing an AK-47.
“They trashed my house and stole my money,” he said.
The Combating Violence Against Women Unit, a government agency, said that the victims of most of the rape cases it has documented, which it said represent only 2 percent of real cases, blamed men in RSF uniforms.
The RSF has denied responsibility and says that criminals and Bashir loyalists have been known to steal uniforms. 


War monitor says Israeli strikes kill six pro-Iran fighters in Syria

Updated 5 sec ago
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War monitor says Israeli strikes kill six pro-Iran fighters in Syria

War monitor says Israeli strikes kill six pro-Iran fighters in Syria
  • A Hezbollah source said that at least one fighter from the group was killed in Israeli strikes in the Qusayr area
Beirut: A war monitor said at least six pro-Iran fighters were killed Monday in Israeli strikes in Syria near the Lebanese border, in an area where Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah group holds sway.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said “Israeli strikes targeted two positions of pro-Iran groups in the Homs region,” including “a Hezbollah site in the Qusayr area” near the border where “six Iran-backed fighters were killed.”
The Observatory did not specify their nationalities.
A Hezbollah source told AFP that at least one fighter from the group was killed in Israeli strikes in the Qusayr area.
Israel rarely comments on individual strikes in Syria but has repeatedly said it will not allow its arch-enemy Iran to expand its presence there.
On Saturday, the Observatory said an Israeli drone strike near the Lebanese border targeted a vehicle carrying “a Hezbollah commander and his companion,” without reporting casualties.
Hezbollah did not announce any deaths among its ranks on Saturday.
On May 9, Israeli strikes on Syria targeted facilities belonging to Iraq’s Al-Nujaba armed movement, the Observatory and the pro-Iran group said, with Damascus saying an unidentified building was attacked.
The Israeli military has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria since the outbreak of the civil war in its northern neighbor in 2011, mainly targeting army positions and Iran-backed fighters including from Lebanon’s Hezbollah group.
But the strikes increased after Israel’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip began on October 7, when the Iran-backed Palestinian militant group launched an unprecedented attack against Israel.
Syria’s war has killed more than half a million people and displaced millions more since it erupted in 2011 after Damascus cracked down on anti-government protests.

ICC asks for arrest warant against Israeli prime minister Netanyahu

ICC asks for arrest warant against Israeli prime minister Netanyahu
Updated 5 min 5 sec ago
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ICC asks for arrest warant against Israeli prime minister Netanyahu

ICC asks for arrest warant against Israeli prime minister Netanyahu
  • Arrest warrants are against Israeli prime minister Netanyahu and Israeli defense minister gallant

International criminal court asks for arrest warrant against Israeli prime minister Netanyahu and Israeli defense minister gallant for alleged war crimes.

ICC prosecutor said there are reasonable grounds to believe Israeli prime minister Netanyahu bears criminal responsibility for war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

According to a statment by court the prosecutors also applied for arrest warrants for three Hamas leaders.


Israel intends to broaden Rafah sweep, Defense Minister Gallant tells Washington

Israel intends to broaden Rafah sweep, Defense Minister Gallant tells Washington
Updated 20 May 2024
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Israel intends to broaden Rafah sweep, Defense Minister Gallant tells Washington

Israel intends to broaden Rafah sweep, Defense Minister Gallant tells Washington
  • After weeks of public disagreements with Washington over the Rafah planning, Israel on May 6 ordered Palestinian civilians to evacuate parts of the city and began troop and tank incursions.

JERUSALEM: Israel intends to broaden its military operation in Rafah, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Monday told a senior aide to US President Joe Biden, who has warned against major action in the southern Gazan city that may risk mass civilian casualties.
Israel describes Rafah, which abuts the Gaza Strip’s border with the Egyptian Sinai, as the last stronghold of Hamas Islamists whose governing and combat capabilities it has been trying to dismantle during the more than seven-month-old war.
After weeks of public disagreements with Washington over the Rafah planning, Israel on May 6 ordered Palestinian civilians to evacuate parts of the city and began troop and tank incursions.
“We are committed to broadening the ground operation in Rafah to the end of dismantling Hamas and recovering the hostages,” a statement from Gallant’s office quoted him as telling visiting US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
Israel believes dozens of hostages from the cross-border Hamas rampage on Oct. 7 are being held in Rafah.
Western powers and Egypt have voiced concern for the fate of hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians sheltering there, despite Israeli assurances about humanitarian safeguards.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA said on Monday that it estimated 810,000 people had fled Rafah since May 6 — potentially more than half of the city’s wartime population.
There was no immediate US comment on the Gallant talks.
The statement from Gallant’s office said he “presented to (National Security) Adviser Sullivan the provisions Israel implemented for evacuating the population from the Rafah area and for setting up the appropriate humanitarian response.”
Israel says its forces in Rafah have discovered dozens of tunnels from the Sinai, a potential embarrassment for Cairo. The Egyptian state information service has previously dismissed speculation about cross-border smuggling to Gaza as “lies.”


Ireland’s top diplomat concerned over slow pace of justice in peacekeeper’s killing in Lebanon

Ireland’s top diplomat concerned over slow pace of justice in peacekeeper’s killing in Lebanon
Updated 20 May 2024
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Ireland’s top diplomat concerned over slow pace of justice in peacekeeper’s killing in Lebanon

Ireland’s top diplomat concerned over slow pace of justice in peacekeeper’s killing in Lebanon
  • Lebanon’s military tribunal last June charged four men with the killing of Pvt. Seán Rooney, 24, of Newtown Cunningham, Ireland, following a half-year probe. Rooney was killed on Dec. 14, 2022.

BEIRUT: Ireland’s top diplomat in a visit to Lebanon on Monday expressed his concern over the slow progress in criminal proceedings against several Lebanese men charged with the killing of an Irish peacekeeper in 2022 in the tiny Mediterranean country.
Micheál Martin, Irish foreign and defense minister, said he was “very, very concerned” about the case. He met with Irish peacekeepers in south Lebanon and with Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib and a representative of the Lebanese defense ministry.
Lebanon’s military tribunal last June charged four men with the killing of Pvt. Seán Rooney, 24, of Newtown Cunningham, Ireland, following a half-year probe. Rooney was killed on Dec. 14, 2022.
Only one of the suspects, Mohammed Ayyad, was arrested. However, he was released on bail in November, with officials citing his medical condition. The four others facing charges — Ali Khalifeh, Ali Salman, Hussein Salman, and Mustafa Salman — remain at large.
All five are allegedly linked with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Hezbollah has repeatedly denied any role in the killing.
On the fatal night, Rooney and several other Irish soldiers from UNIFIL were on their way from their base in southern Lebanon to the Beirut airport. Two UN vehicles apparently took a detour through Al-Aqbiya, which is not part of the area under the peacekeepers’ mandate.
Initial reports said angry residents confronted the peacekeepers, but the indictment concluded that the shooting was a targeted attack. The UN peacekeeper vehicle reportedly took a wrong turn and was surrounded by vehicles and armed men as they tried to make their way back to the main road.
“We want justice to be done” and for the killers to be “brought to justice,” Martin told reporters. “We understand the separation of powers. But we are concerned at the slow pace of the trial. And the Irish people want justice”
UNIFIL was created to oversee the withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon after Israel’s 1978 invasion, and its mission was expanded following the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.
Relative calm prevailed in the border region after that war until the beginning of Israel’s war against Hamas, a Hezbollah ally, in Gaza in October. For more than seven months, Hezbollah and allied groups have clashed near-daily with Israeli forces, with no apparent immediate prospects for a halt to hostilities.


Reactions to the death of Iran’s president in a helicopter crash

Reactions to the death of Iran’s president in a helicopter crash
Updated 20 May 2024
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Reactions to the death of Iran’s president in a helicopter crash

Reactions to the death of Iran’s president in a helicopter crash
  • Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman offer their condolences
  • Pakistan to observe a day of mourning and Pakistani flags to fly at half mast as a mark of respect

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman offered their condolences to Iran the death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash which also killed Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, state news agency SPA has reported.

UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed on X said: “I extend my deepest condolences to the Iranian government and people over the passing of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and those accompanying them following a tragic accident. We pray that God grants them eternal rest and we extend our heartfelt sympathies to their families. The UAE stands in solidarity with Iran at this difficult time.”

UAE Prime Minister and Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid also posted on X: “Our condolences and sincere sympathies to the brotherly Iranian people and their leadership on the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his Foreign Minister in a painful accident. Our hearts are with you in this difficult time. Our prayers are that God will cover them with His vast mercy and dwell them in His spacious Paradise.”

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei expressed on Monday his condolences, state media said.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, in a statement said: “Raisi and Abdollahian were known as “true, reliable friends of our country”.

“Their role in strengthening mutually beneficial Russian-Iranian cooperation and trusting partnership is invaluable.

“We sincerely extend our condolences to the families and friends of the victims, as well as to the entire friendly people of Iran. Our thoughts and hearts are with you in this sad hour.”

Russia’s embassy in Tehran also offered condolences over Raisi’s death, state news agency TASS reported.

China’s President Xi Jinping has expressed condolences over Raisi’s death, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Monday.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday expressed his condolences for the death of Raisi and Amirabdollahian, saying Raisi was a “valuable colleague and brother”.

“As a colleague who personally witnessed his efforts for the peace of the Iranian people and our region during his time in power, I remember Mr. Raisi with respect and gratitude,” Erdogan said on social media platform X, adding Turkey stood by Iran in this difficult time.

Turkish foreign minister Hakan Fidan also extended condolences to the Iranian people on the death of Raisi and Amirabdollahian.

The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad on X said: “Sincere condolences to the government and people of the Islamic Republic of Iran on the death of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdullahian, and the accompanying officials in the painful helicopter accident, asking God Almighty for mercy and forgiveness for them and for their families with patience and solace. We belong to Allah and to Him we shall return.”

Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi on Monday extended his condolences for the deaths of Raisi and Amirabdollahian in a helicopter crash.

“Egypt mourns, with great sadness and grief” the Iranian president and Tehran’s top diplomat, “who passed away on Sunday following a painful accident,” the presidency said in a statement.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani said in a statement: “With great sadness and sorrow, we have received the news of the death of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, along with their companions, in the unfortunate plane crash in northern Iran.”

He added, “We extend our sincere condolences and sympathy to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, Mr. Ali Khamenei, and to the government and people of Iran. We express our solidarity with the brotherly Iranian people and the responsible officials in the Islamic Republic during this painful tragedy.

“We ask God to have mercy on the departed, and may He grant patience and solace to their families and loved ones.”

Syrian President Bashar Assad in a statement also offered condolences to Iran’s Supreme Leader over death of the president and the foreign minister.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Monday he was “deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic demise” of Raisi after Iranian media reported he had died in a helicopter crash.

“My heartfelt condolences to his family and the people of Iran,” Modi posted on X, formerly Twitter. “India stands with Iran in this time of sorrow.”

Pakistani prime minister Shehbaz Sharif posted on X: “I along with the government and people of Pakistan extend our deepest condolences and sympathies to the Iranian nation on this terrible loss. May the martyred souls rest in heavenly peace. The great Iranian nation will overcome this tragedy with customary courage.

“Pakistan had the pleasure of hosting President Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian on a historic visit, less than a month ago. They were good friends of Pakistan. Pakistan will observe a day of mourning and the flag will fly at half mast as a mark of respect for President Raisi and his companions and in solidarity with Brotherly Iran.”

European Council president Charles Michel posted on X: “The EU expresses its sincere condolences for the death of President Raisi and Foreign Minister Abdollahian, as well as other members of their delegation and crew in a helicopter accident. Our thoughts go to the families.”

A Hamas statement conveyed Hamas’ “deepest condolences and solidarity” to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the Iranian government, and the Iranian people for “this immense loss.”

It praised the deceased Iranian leaders for supporting the Palestinian cause and resistance against Israel and expressed confidence that Iran’s “deep-rooted institutions” will enable it to overcome “the repercussions of this great loss.”

Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi, head of Yemen’s Houthi Supreme Revolutionary Committee, posted on X: “Our deepest condolences to the Iranian people, the Iranian leadership, and the families of President Raisi and the accompanying delegation on their reported martyrdom. We ask God to grant their families patience and solace. Verily we belong to Allah and to Him we shall return. The Iranian people will remain adhering to the loyal leaders of their people, by God’s will.”

Lebanon’s Hezbollah expressed condolences to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for the death of President Raisi, a statement said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said he was “deeply saddened” by the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and other officials in a helicopter crash, noting their shared commitment to bolstering ties.

“I am deeply saddened by the tragic deaths of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and several other officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said in a statement on social media.