UN urges Security Council to extend Turkiye border crossing into northwest Syria for 1 year

UN urges Security Council to extend Turkiye border crossing into northwest Syria for 1 year
The Security Council is expected to vote in the coming days, as the current six-month opening period expires on July 10. (AP)
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Updated 05 July 2023
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UN urges Security Council to extend Turkiye border crossing into northwest Syria for 1 year

UN urges Security Council to extend Turkiye border crossing into northwest Syria for 1 year
  • UN secretary general is hoping Security Council will vote to keep a key border crossing from Turkiye to Syria’s rebel-held northwest open for critical aid deliveries
  • The Security Council is expected to vote in the coming days, as the current six-month opening period expires on July 10

IDLIB: The UN secretary general is hoping that the Security Council will vote later this month to keep a key border crossing from Turkiye to Syria’s rebel-held northwest open for critical aid deliveries for a period of one year instead of six months, a UN official said Tuesday.
Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib is home to some 4 million people, many of whom were earlier displaced during the 12-year civil war, which has killed nearly half a million people. Hundreds of thousands live in tent settlements and rely on aid that comes through the Bab Al-Hawa border crossing.
The Security Council is expected to vote in the coming days, as the current six-month opening period expires on July 10.
The situation got worse after the Feb. 6 earthquake that hit southern Turkiye and northern Syria, killing tens of thousands of people and leaving many more homeless and in need of aid.
In the past, Russia, the main backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad, abstained on or vetoed resolutions on cross-border aid deliveries. It has sought to replace aid crossing the Turkish border to Idlib province with convoys from government-held areas in Syria. Since the early years of the war in Syria, Turkiye has sided with and supported the rebels.
The Security Council initially authorized aid deliveries in 2014 from Turkiye, Iraq and Jordan through four crossing points into opposition-held areas in Syria. But over the years, Russia, backed by its ally China, has reduced the authorized crossings to just one from Turkiye — and the time frame from a year to six months.
“The UN. Secretary-General has been very clear that he would like the Security Council to renew the cross-border resolution which expires on July 10 for 12 months,” said David Carden, the UN’s Deputy Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria crisis. He spoke to journalists during a visit to Idlib.
He said a 12-month renewal was needed in order for the UN to implement early recovery projects such as durable shelters. “What we want is to get people from tents into durable shelter,” he said adding that such shelters are cooler in summer and warmer in winter, in addition to the privacy they give to families.
The February earthquake left more than 4,500 dead in northwestern Syria and about 855,000 people had their homes damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.
After the earthquake, two additional border crossings between Turkiye and Syria were opened initially for three months. They were extended for a further three months in May to help the flow of aid.


Northern Gaza facing ‘catastrophe’ without more aid, OCHA official warns

Northern Gaza facing ‘catastrophe’ without more aid, OCHA official warns
Updated 58 min 53 sec ago
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Northern Gaza facing ‘catastrophe’ without more aid, OCHA official warns

Northern Gaza facing ‘catastrophe’ without more aid, OCHA official warns
  • Jamie McGoldrick says communication issues hampering aid deliveries, putting aid workers at risk
  • Israel’s military campaign has severely damaged infrastructure, 70% of people in north at risk of famine

LONDON: Northern Gaza faces a catastrophe without more assistance, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator said on Friday, with communication between the Israeli military and foreign aid groups still poor and no meaningful improvements happening on the ground.

Jamie McGoldrick, who works for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, warned that Gaza was sliding into an ever more precarious situation as Israel’s war against Hamas continues into a sixth month.

He said that according to an Integrated Food Security Phase Classification report 70 percent of people in the north of the Gaza Strip were “in real danger of slipping into famine.”

In a briefing on the situation, McGoldrick said the deaths of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers earlier this month were “not a one off” and that there had been “many incidents of that kind.”

“We work with, interact with, the Israeli Defense Forces and the way we notify and communicate is challenging. We don’t have communications equipment inside Gaza to operate properly, as you would have in … other situation(s),” he said.

“We are working in a very hostile area as humanitarians without the possibility of contacting each other. We don’t have radios, we don’t have mobile networks that work. And so, what we then do is we have to find ways of passing messages back to OCHA and other organizations in Rafah and then relaying out. And if we have a serious security incident, we don’t have a hotline, we don’t have any way of communicating (with) the IDF or facing problems at checkpoint or facing problems en route.

“I think that another thing, I would say, that there’s a real challenge of weapons discipline and the challenge of the behavior of (Israeli) soldiers at checkpoints. And we’ve tried, time and time again, to bring that (to their) attention.”

McGoldrick said that communication with the Israeli military was hampering the flow of aid into Gaza.

“Israel believes that their responsibility ends when they deliver trucks from Kerem Shalom and to the Palestinian side, and I would say that that’s certainly not the case,” he said.

“Their responsibility ends when the aid reaches the civilians in Gaza — we have to have them supportive of that. And that means allowing more facilitation, a lot more routes in and, obviously, to provide security for us as we move. At the moment, we don’t have security.”

He said the toll the war had taken on Gaza’s basic infrastructure was also playing a part in hampering aid deliveries.

“The roads themselves are in very poor condition. We are, as the UN, committed to using all possible routes to scale up humanitarian assistance throughout Gaza, but right now we see that there have been a number of commitments made by Israel and a number of concessions,” he said.

“I don’t think there’s been any notable improvement in terms of our ability to move around, certainly not our approval to get convoys going to the north.”

Opening more crossings to supply northern areas of Gaza was an essential step if famine was to be avoided in the area, McGoldrick said.

“All we can do is keep reminding (Israel) and using the pressure from key (UN) member states to remind Israel of the commitments they’ve made and the commitments that we’ve been asking for such a long time.

“That would be an essential lifeline into the north, because that’s where the population, according to the IPC — the recent famine report — that is where the bulk of people who are the most in danger of slipping into famine.

“If we don’t have the chance to expand the delivery of aid into all parts of Gaza, but in particular to the north, then we’re going to face a catastrophe. And the people up there are living such a fragile and precarious existence.”

McGoldrick also noted the difficulty in accessing fresh water and the devastation caused to Gaza’s health sector by Israel’s military campaign.

“People have very much less water than they need. And as a result of that, waterborne diseases due to the lack of safe and clean water and the destruction of the sanitation systems, you know, they’re all bringing about problems for the population living (there),” he said.

“The hospital system there, Al-Shifa, and Nasser, the two big hospitals have been badly damaged or destroyed. And what we have now is three-quarters of the hospitals and most of the primary healthcare clinics are shutting down, leaving only 10 of 36 hospitals functioning.

“We hear of amputations being carried out with(out) anesthesia. You know, miscarriages have increased by a massive number. And I think of all those systems which are not in place, (and) at the soaring rates of infectious diseases — you know, hepatitis C, dehydration, infections and diarrhea. And obviously, given the fact that our supply chain is so weak, we haven’t been able to deliver enough assistance.”


Biden expecting Iranian attack on Israel ‘sooner than later,’ tells Tehran ‘don’t’

The North Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC. (AFP)
The North Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC. (AFP)
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Biden expecting Iranian attack on Israel ‘sooner than later,’ tells Tehran ‘don’t’

The North Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC. (AFP)
  • The White House said it warned Iran to not use that attack as a pretext to escalate further in the region

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden on Friday said he expected Iran to attack Israel “sooner, rather than later,” and warned Tehran not to proceed.
Asked by reporters about his message to Iran, Biden said simply, “Don’t,” and he underscored Washington’s commitment to defend Israel.
“We are devoted to the defense of Israel. We will support Israel. We will help defend Israel and Iran will not succeed,” he said.
Biden said he would not divulge secure information, but said his expectation was that an attack could come “sooner, rather than later.”
Earlier, White House spokesperson John Kirby said the reportedly imminent attack by Iran on Israel was a real and viable threat, but gave no details about any possible timing.
Kirby said the United States was looking at its own force posture in the region in light or Tehran’s threat and was watching the situation very closely.

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‘Worrying proportion’ of patients in Gaza are children aged 6 and younger: British surgeon

‘Worrying proportion’ of patients in Gaza are children aged 6 and younger: British surgeon
Updated 12 April 2024
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‘Worrying proportion’ of patients in Gaza are children aged 6 and younger: British surgeon

‘Worrying proportion’ of patients in Gaza are children aged 6 and younger: British surgeon
  • ‘Huge amount’ of Dr. Victoria Rose’s operations were on children younger than 16
  • Patients struggling to heal after ‘not getting any vitamins or minerals’ due to famine

LONDON: A British surgeon who volunteered in Gaza has said a “huge amount” of her operations were on children younger than 16, the BBC reported on Friday.
Dr. Victoria Rose added that common injuries included bullet wounds, shrapnel injuries and burns, and that she had performed surgery on many children younger than 6. Many patients are unable to heal from surgery due to malnutrition, she said.
The consultant plastic surgeon spent two weeks working in late March at the European Hospital in Khan Younis, southern Gaza.
In that time, she only operated on one person older than her — a 53-year-old. That fact was the “most shocking bit” of her time in Gaza, she told the “Today” program.
Rose added: “Everybody else was younger than me. A huge amount of my work was under-16s. Quite a worrying proportion of my work was 6 and under.”
Injuries to Palestinians required “removing foreign bodies from tissue, reconstructing defects in faces, removing bullets from jaws, that kind of thing,” she said.
“When we were looking at some of our patients who were not doing so well, there was a lot more infection than I’ve ever seen anywhere else.
“A lot of people’s protein levels were in their boots, their haemoglobin levels were down. They are just not getting any nutrients, any vitamins or minerals.”
At the time of Rose’s visit, she and a fellow doctor, Graeme Groom, regularly heard nearby fighting and operated on freshly wounded patients as the Israeli military assaulted Khan Younis.
Groom said: “As (the bombing) became closer it was a very short time before we saw the effects of the bombing.
“Just walking past the emergency department, for example, a pickup truck filled with distraught people backed up to the door with a pile of entwined corpses, followed by a line of cars with more bodies in the boots.”
Many Palestinians have taken refuge in the European Hospital, but those who have set up makeshift tents on nearby ground are being forced to move due to the need for new graves, Groom added.
“Now there is a huge and spreading cemetery so that the graves of the newly dead are now displacing the shelters of the barely living.”
The World Health Organization’s representative for Palestine, Rik Peeperkorn, said on Friday after visiting Khan Younis that the city’s destruction is “disproportionate to anything one can imagine.”
He added: “No building or road is intact, there is only rubble and dirt.” Three other hospitals in the city have been rendered non-functional by fighting, he said.


Millions in Sudan ‘one step away from famine’ amid year-long conflict, UN humanitarian official says

Millions in Sudan ‘one step away from famine’ amid year-long conflict, UN humanitarian official says
Updated 12 April 2024
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Millions in Sudan ‘one step away from famine’ amid year-long conflict, UN humanitarian official says

Millions in Sudan ‘one step away from famine’ amid year-long conflict, UN humanitarian official says
  • Time running out to avoid catastrophe, with more than $4bn needed in emergency funding, aid officials warn
  • More than 18m people face food insecurity as ‘forgotten conflict’ plunges country into crisis

LONDON: At least 5 million people in Sudan are “one step away from famine,” the head of office at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Sudan said on Friday.

Justin Brady told a media briefing that an added 18 million people across the country were facing acute food insecurity amid the ongoing battle between the Sudanese Armed Forces and units from the Rapid Support Forces.

Thousands have been killed and a humanitarian crisis has unfolded since the conflict erupted 12 months ago on Monday.

More than 8.5 million people have fled their homes, with nearly 1.8 million escaping across the country’s borders.

Brady called on both the SAF and RSF to protect civilians and allow desperately needed humanitarian aid into the country, adding he was “particularly worried” about the situation in the Darfur region.

Michael Dunford, regional director for East Africa at the World Food Programme, said there was a “very real risk” of the situation in Sudan becoming the “largest hunger crisis anywhere in the world.”

He added that the emergency could also spill into neighboring countries, such as Chad and South Sudan, unless there was an immediate end to the fighting.

France is hosting a pledging conference in Paris on Monday to help Sudan and its neighbors cope with the fallout from the civil war.

The UN has said $4.1 billion is needed to meet the humanitarian needs, and both Brady and Dunford said it was “essential” that countries donated the required funds. They criticized the lack of access for international journalists to cover events in Sudan, which they said had led it to becoming a “forgotten conflict.”

Also on Friday, World Health Organization spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva that time was running out to avoid a catastrophe in Sudan.

He warned of Sudan’s collapsing health system, with acute shortages of staff, medicines, vaccines, equipment and supplies, and said 70 to 80 percent of Sudanese hospitals and clinics were not functioning due to the conflict.

“Without a stop to the fighting and unhindered access for the delivery of humanitarian aid, Sudan’s crisis will dramatically worsen in the months to come and could impact the whole region” in terms of more refugees, the spread of disease and food insecurity.

“We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg,” he added.

Thair Shraideh, the UN Development Pogramme’s resident representative in Sudan, said the country was plunging into “an accelerating food security crisis.”

He continued: “The study warns that a famine in Sudan is expected in 2024, particularly in the states of Khartoum, Al-Jazira, and in the Darfur and Kordofan regions.”

The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, on Thursday pledged US funding for Sudan, and also called on donor countries to dig deep at the Paris event on Monday as she bemoaned the severe lack of funding so far.

“To date, just 5 percent of the UN’s humanitarian appeal for Sudan has been met. Already, the WFP has had to cut assistance to over 7 million people in Chad and South Sudan, and that includes 1.2 million refugees, people who were already struggling to feed themselves and their families,” she said.

“This is a matter of life and death. Experts warn that the coming weeks and months, over 200,000 more children could die of starvation. The US, for our part, plans on significantly increasing our funding in the days to come,” she added.

Thomas-Greenfield also agreed that Sudan and its crisis was being forgotten.

“Just five years after a revolution that offered a glimpse at a free, peaceful, democratic Sudan, people are losing hope. Aid workers have begun calling this conflict the forgotten war,” she said.

“Sudanese children are asking why the world has forgotten them. And let’s be clear: I don’t believe the dearth of attention is because people are ignorant or unfeeling, in fact, I believe it’s the opposite. I believe it’s because there are so many terrible crises, so much violence and pain, that people don’t quite know which way to turn.”


Interior minister calls for calm and restraint after killing of Lebanese Forces official

Interior minister calls for calm and restraint after killing of Lebanese Forces official
Updated 12 April 2024
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Interior minister calls for calm and restraint after killing of Lebanese Forces official

Interior minister calls for calm and restraint after killing of Lebanese Forces official
  • Lebanon “does not allow asylum, as there are safe areas in Syria,” Mawlawi said
  • Geagea: ‘Our ongoing conflict is not driven by revenge or sectarianism’

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi on Friday urged everyone to “stay calm and refrain from attacking others.”
The country, he said on Friday, “respects human rights, and we protect everyone on its territory legally.”
He emphasized the importance of “enforcing the law for all residents.”
The minister’s appeal came as the funeral of Lebanese Forces official Pascal Sleiman turned into a campaign against the presence of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
Lebanon “does not allow asylum, as there are safe areas in Syria,” Mawlawi said.
Mawlawi estimated the proportion of Syrians detained in Lebanese prisons at 35 percent of the total number of those being held.
The Lebanese army was deployed in security-sensitive areas, especially between Chiyah and Ain Al-Remmaneh, and reinforced its presence in the southern suburbs of Beirut.
The caretaker minister of displaced affairs, Issam Sharaf El-Din, said there are 20,000 armed men in the refugee camps and that security in Lebanon is not under control.
Thousands of supporters of the Lebanese Forces and other Christian parties took part in the funeral of Sleiman — the Lebanese Forces’ coordinator in Jbeil, northern Lebanon.
The coffin was wrapped in the Lebanese flag and his party’s banner.
At the funeral, at Saint Georges Church in Jbeil, Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi stressed the importance of mercy and justice.
Al-Rahi — the highest Christian authority in Lebanon — said that the decisions of war and peace no longer belonged to the Lebanese state.
Meanwhile, the investigation into the crime appeared not to be making much progress.
The only information available revealed that a group of Syrians killed Sleiman by hitting him on the head after stealing his Audi car. The body was placed in the trunk of the car and taken to the Lebanese-Syrian border. It was found on Syrian territory last Sunday.
Questioning of the Syrian detainees suspected of the crime revealed that the group believed to be responsible for the kidnapping and killing of Sleiman is part of a gang whose members are involved in a range of activities, including car theft.
Stolen cars are transported to the border and delivered to smugglers, who in turn move them into Syria via an illegal crossing. Another group in Syria buys these cars, where some are broken up and sold for parts.
The murder of Sleiman has had serious repercussions, including attacks on Syrian refugees in predominantly Christian areas.
Syrian workers and refugees were publicly threatened and ordered to leave neighborhoods in the eastern outskirts of Beirut, Bsharri and other towns, no later than Friday.
Syrian families were seen hastily leaving their homes, dragging their children and carrying their belongings.
Attacks also targeted the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, an ally of Hezbollah and the Syrian regime, and the party’s centers and ambulances were attacked in Mount Lebanon and Bekaa.
The murder of Sleiman and the increase in violence against Syrian refugees and workers highlights the asylum issue in the country. Lebanon complains about the more than 1.5 million Syrians on its territory, fewer than a million of whom are registered with UNHCR.
In his speech on Friday, Al-Rahi urged everyone to control their emotions and reactions and avoid being drawn into discord.
Al-Rahi stressed the importance of “mercy and justice.”
He said Sleiman’s wife affirmed “her trust in the military and security apparatuses, especially the army, which managed to uncover the perpetrators.”
Al-Rahi added: “The important thing is to know the objectives of the crime and who is behind it, as the truth will inevitably emerge.
“But it is unfortunate that the perpetrators of this crime were displaced Syrians whom Lebanon has welcomed with humanity, and some of them have become a threat to the Lebanese in their own homes, and it has become important to control their presence.
“It is the duty of the Lebanese authorities to address this gravely dangerous issue through legal and procedural means.”
Al-Rahi said that “the main reason facilitating politically covered crimes by influential people is the failure to elect a president for the state, the chaos in constitutional institutions, and the proliferation of weapons.
“Who benefits from this chaos? The decision of war and peace has moved outside the state’s jurisdiction,” he said, referring to Hezbollah.
The leader of the Lebanese Forces, Samir Geagea, addressed those gathered at the church via Zoom.
He said that the “confrontation continues. Our confrontation is not for revenge, nor is it reactionary or based on sectarianism or regionalism. Rather, it is to transition from our bitter reality to the desired reality. The reality of all civilized societies is that a person can live with pride and dignity.
The leader of the Christian party also said: “Our struggle will continue until assassinations and kidnappings cease, until we have secure and regulated borders, until a corrupt and failed government is replaced democratically, and until those responsible for crimes such as the Beirut port explosion and the killing of Elias Hasrouni and others are exposed and brought to justice.”
Hasrouni, a Lebanese Forces member, was killed last year under mysterious circumstances in an area loyal to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.
Geagea also said: “Do not bet on our disappointment; we will not despair, we will not tire. Do not bet on our retreat; we will not surrender. Do not bet on our memory; we will not forget. And do not bet on time; we will not change our mind.”
The Lebanese Forces party has accused “out-of-control weapons” of being responsible for Suleiman’s killing without directly accusing Hezbollah of being responsible for the crime.
The LF believes there are many gaps in the security narrative of Suleiman’s killing. The party insists that the crime is “political until proven otherwise.”
After the incident, and a few hours before the announcement of Suleiman’s killing, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah accused “the Lebanese Forces party and its allies of fueling conflict.”