EU blasts Israel over deadly Jenin raid as UN refuses to retract condemnation

EU blasts Israel over deadly Jenin raid as UN refuses to retract condemnation
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Members of an international envoys delegation tour the Jenin camp for Palestinian refugees in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on July 8, 2023. (AFP)
EU blasts Israel over deadly Jenin raid as UN refuses to retract condemnation
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Members of an international envoys delegation tour the Jenin camp for Palestinian refugees in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on July 8, 2023. (AFP)
EU blasts Israel over deadly Jenin raid as UN refuses to retract condemnation
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EU representative to the Palestinian territories Sven Kuehn von Burgsdorff (C R) visits the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank on July 8, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 08 July 2023
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EU blasts Israel over deadly Jenin raid as UN refuses to retract condemnation

EU blasts Israel over deadly Jenin raid as UN refuses to retract condemnation
  • A EU envoy echoed UN chief Antonio Guterres who said ‘there was an excessive force used by Israeli forces’
  • The 48-hour military operation was the largest Israel has staged in the Palestinian territory for years

LONDON: A European envoy blasted Israel Saturday over the “proportionality” of the force it uses, as international envoys toured Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank following this week’s deadly raid.
His remarks echoed UN chief Antonio Guterres who on Thursday told reporters “there was an excessive force used by Israeli forces” in its 48-hour operation, the largest Israel has staged in the Palestinian territory for years.
It included air strikes and armored bulldozers ripping up streets.
Jenin is a center for multiple armed Palestinian groups, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called the refugee camp a “terrorist nest.”
EU representative to the Palestinian territories Sven Kuehn von Burgsdorff made his comments as he led a delegation of UN officials and diplomats from 25 countries to the camp in the northern West Bank.
“We are concerned about the deployment of weaponry and weapons systems which question the proportionality of the military during the operation,” Kuehn von Burgsdorff said of the operation in which 12 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were killed.
“This cycle of violence has to end, it cannot continue. If there is no political solution to the conflict, we are going to stand here in a week’s time, in a month’s time, in a year’s time, with nothing changed,” he added.
As the delegation toured the camp, residents peered out of holes left in the walls by Israeli rockets, and local authorities tested a new camp-wide alarm system to warn of future raids.
Meanwhile, Israel’s UN ambassador called on Guterres to retract his condemnation of the country for its excessive use of force.
UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said the secretary-general conveyed his views on Thursday “and he stands by those views.”
Guterres, angered by the impact of the Israeli airstrikes and attack on the Jenin refugee camp, said the operation left over 100 civilians injured, uprooted thousands of residents, damaged schools and hospitals, and disrupted water and electricity networks. He also criticized Israel for preventing the injured from getting medical care and humanitarian workers from reaching everyone in need.
“I strongly condemn all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror,” Guterres told reporters.
Asked whether this condemnation applied to Israel, he replied: “It applies to all use of excessive force, and obviously in this situation, there was an excessive force used by Israeli forces.”
Haq said Guterres “clearly condemns all of the violence that has been affecting the civilians in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, regardless of who is the perpetrator.”
The UN Security Council discussed Israel’s military operation in Jenin behind closed doors Friday at the request of the UAE and received a briefing from Assistant Secretary-General Khaled Khiari.
Erdan sent a letter to the 15 council members and Guterres before the council meeting saying that over the past year, 52 Israelis were killed by Palestinians, and many attacks were carried out from Jenin or from the area.
“The international community and the Security Council must unconditionally condemn the latest Palestinian terror attacks and hold Palestinian leadership accountable,” he said.
The Security Council took no action.
Jenin camp has been the site of several large-scale raids by the Israeli military this year, but this week’s was the biggest such operation in the West Bank since the second Palestinian “intifada” or uprising of the early 2000s.
The camp’s infrastructure was severely damaged during the raid, which Israel said was targeting militants.
Eight kilometers (five miles) of water pipes and three kilometers of sewage pipes were destroyed, the UN said. More than 100 houses were damaged and a number of schools were also lightly damaged.
The refugee camp in one of the poorest and most densely populated in the West Bank, with some 18,000 people living in just 0.43 square kilometers (0.16 of a square mile).
UN officials on Saturday made a plea for funds to help rebuild the camp.
“To restore services and scale up support to the children, we need cash ... our appeal is desperately underfunded,” Leni Stenseth, deputy commissioner-general of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), said.
“I would urge you to consider announcing your support for the work we are going to do here in Jenin camp in the coming weeks and months as soon as possible,” she added.
On Thursday Algeria announced $30 million to “help rebuild the Palestinian city of Jenin after the barbaric and criminal attack” by Israel, and the United Arab Emirates, which normalized ties with Israel in 2020, said Wednesday it “will provide $15 million.”
(With AFP and AP)


Iran election seen as legitimacy test for rulers as dissent grows

Iran election seen as legitimacy test for rulers as dissent grows
Updated 5 sec ago
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Iran election seen as legitimacy test for rulers as dissent grows

Iran election seen as legitimacy test for rulers as dissent grows
  • Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called voting a religious duty
  • Parliament has no major influence on foreign policy or Iran’s nuclear agenda
DUBAI: Iran holds a parliamentary election on Friday seen as a test of the clerical establishment’s popularity at a time of growing dissent over an array of political, social and economic crises.
The vote will be the first formal gauge of public opinion after anti-government protests in 2022-23 spiralled into some of the worst political turmoil since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Critics from inside and outside the ruling elite, including politicians and former lawmakers, say the legitimacy of Iran’s theocratic system could be at stake due to economic struggles and a lack of electoral options for a mostly young population chafing at political and social restrictions.
Iran’s top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has called voting a religious duty. He accused the country’s “enemies” — a term he normally uses for the United States and Israel — of trying to create despair among Iranian voters.
The commander of the country’s elite Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, said on Wednesday that “each vote is like a missile launched at the enemy’s heart.”
But Iranians still have painful memories of the handling of nationwide unrest sparked by the death in custody of a young Iranian-Kurdish woman in 2022, which was quelled by a violent state crackdown involving mass detentions and even executions.
Economic hardships pose another challenge. Many analysts say that millions have lost hope that Iran’s ruling clerics can resolve an economic crisis fomented by a combination of US sanctions, mismanagement and corruption.
While establishment supporters will likely vote for hard-line candidates, widespread public anger at worsening living standards and pervasive graft may keep many Iranians at home.
Prices for basic goods like bread, meat, dairy and rice have skyrocketed in past months. The official inflation rate stands at about 40 percent. Analysts and insiders put it at over 50 percent.
The US 2018 withdrawal from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers, and its reimposition of sanctions, have hit Iran’s economy hard. Efforts to revive the pact have failed.
Reformists shun ‘meaningless’ vote
Iranian activists and opposition groups are distributing the Twitter hashtags #VOTENoVote widely on social media, arguing that a high turnout will legitimize the Islamic Republic.
With heavyweight moderates and conservatives staying out of Friday’s race and reformists calling it an “unfree and unfair election,” the vote will pit hard-liners and low-key conservatives against each other, all proclaiming loyalty to Iran’s Islamic revolutionary ideals.
The interior ministry said 15,200 candidates will run for the 290-seat parliament, with a vetting body called the Guardian Council approving 75 percent of initially registered hopefuls.
The unelected Guardian Council, made up of six clerics and six legal experts generally within Khamenei’s orbit, has the authority to scrutinize laws and election candidates.
Ballots will mostly be counted manually, so the final result may not be announced for three days, although partial results may appear sooner.
On the same day, Iranians also vote for the Assembly of Experts, which appoints and can dismiss the supreme leader. The 88-member clerical body rarely intervenes directly in policy but is expected to help choose the 84-year-old Khamenei’s successor.
Parliament has no major influence on foreign policy or Iran’s nuclear agenda. These are determined by Khamenei who holds the utmost authority in the country’s unique dual system of clerical and republican rule.
Polling has projected turnover of about 41 percent, while former lawmaker Mahmoud Sadeghi said on Monday that surveys showed the participation could be as low as 27 percent, significantly lower than 42 percent in a 2020 parliamentary vote.
Discredited after years of failed attempts at widening political and social freedoms, the pro-reform opposition suffered further unpopularity in 2022 when protesters scorned its mantra of gradual change.
The Reform Front coalition has said it will not take part in the “meaningless” election but has not boycotted the vote.

Israel strikes near Damascus, Syria-Lebanon border: monitor

Israel strikes near Damascus, Syria-Lebanon border: monitor
Updated 29 February 2024
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Israel strikes near Damascus, Syria-Lebanon border: monitor

Israel strikes near Damascus, Syria-Lebanon border: monitor
  • Israel rarely comments on individual strikes but has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran to expand its presence in Syria

Beirut: Israel hit a car used by Hezbollah in Syria, close to the Lebanese border, also striking near Damascus Thursday, a war monitor said, hours after similar attacks near the Syrian capital.
“An Israeli drone targeted a car belonging to Hezbollah in the Homs countryside near the Syrian-Lebanese border,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
At the same time, “violent explosions resounded after Israeli strikes hit southwest of Damascus,” said the Britain-based monitor with a network of sources inside Syria.
An AFP correspondent in Damascus said they heard faraway explosions.
On Wednesday evening, Israel struck near Damascus, killing two Syrian pro-Hezbollah fighters, the Observatory had said.
Last week, an Israeli strike on a truck in Syria near the Lebanese border killed two Hezbollah members, also according to the Observatory.
Hezbollah and other Iran-backed groups have been fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces following the eruption of civil war.
Since Syria’s war began in 2011, Israel has launched hundreds of air strikes against its northern neighbor, primarily targeting pro-Iran forces, among them Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Syrian army.
But the strikes have multiplied during the almost five-month-old war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Israel rarely comments on individual strikes but has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran to expand its presence in Syria.
Syria’s war has claimed the lives of more than half a million people and displaced millions since it broke out in March 2011 with Damascus’s brutal repression of anti-government protests.


UN rights chief: War crimes committed by all parties in Israel-Hamas conflict

UN rights chief: War crimes committed by all parties in Israel-Hamas conflict
Updated 29 February 2024
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UN rights chief: War crimes committed by all parties in Israel-Hamas conflict

UN rights chief: War crimes committed by all parties in Israel-Hamas conflict
  • UN human rights office had recorded ‘many incidents that may amount to war crimes by Israeli forces’

GENEVA: UN human rights chief Volker Turk on Thursday said war crimes had been committed by all parties in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, calling for them to be investigated and for those responsible to be held accountable.
“Clear violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws, including war crimes and possibly other crimes under international law, have been committed by all parties,” Turk told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
“It is time — well past time — for peace, investigation and accountability.”
Hamas gunmen killed 1,200 people and captured 253 hostages in an attack on Israel on Oct. 7, according to Israeli tallies.
The attack sparked an Israeli offensive in Hamas-run Gaza, which it says is intended to rescue the remaining hostages and eradicate Hamas. Health authorities in Gaza say some 30,000 people have been confirmed killed during the offensive.
Turk, who was presenting a report on the human rights situation in Gaza and in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, said his office had recorded “many incidents that may amount to war crimes by Israeli forces.”
He said there were also indications that Israeli forces have engaged in “indiscriminate or disproportionate targeting” in violation of international law.
Israel has said it is doing all it can to minimize harm to civilians.
Turk said Palestinian armed groups launching indiscriminate projectiles across southern Israel and the holding of hostages also violated international humanitarian law.
Last month, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague ordered Israel to prevent acts of genocide against Palestinians and do more to help civilians, although it stopped short of ordering a ceasefire.
Turk said the prospect of an Israeli ground assault in the southern border town of Rafah, where some 1.5 million people are estimated to be crammed after fleeing their homes further north to escape Israel’s offensive, “would take the nightmare being inflicted on people in Gaza into a new, dystopian, dimension.”
“For my part, I fail to see how such an operation could be consistent with the binding provisional measures issued by the International Court of Justice,” he said.
Turk added that such a ground offensive would incur massive loss of life, increase the risk of atrocity crimes, spur more displacement and “sign a death warrant for any hope of effective humanitarian aid.”


Strike on Palestinians waiting for aid in Gaza kills and wounds dozens

Strike on Palestinians waiting for aid in Gaza kills and wounds dozens
Updated 29 February 2024
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Strike on Palestinians waiting for aid in Gaza kills and wounds dozens

Strike on Palestinians waiting for aid in Gaza kills and wounds dozens
  • Hospital officials say an apparent Israeli strike on a crowd of Palestinians waiting for humanitarian aid in Gaza City has killed and wounded dozens

RAFAH: At least 70 people were killed in a strike early Thursday on a crowd of Palestinians waiting for humanitarian aid in Gaza City, bringing the total number killed since the start of the Israel-Hamas war to more than 30,000, Gaza’s Health Ministry said.
Gaza City and the rest of northern Gaza were the first targets of Israel’s air, sea and ground offensive launched in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack. The area has suffered widespread devastation and has been largely isolated from the rest of the territory for months, with little aid entering.
Aid groups say it has become nearly impossible to deliver humanitarian assistance in most of Gaza, in part because of the crowds of desperate people who overwhelm aid convoys. The UN says a quarter of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians face starvation.
Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said another 280 people were wounded in Thursday’s strike.
Fares Afana, the head of the ambulance service at the Kamal Adwan Hospital, said medics arriving at the scene found “dozens or hundreds” lying on the ground. He said there were not enough ambulances to collect all the dead and wounded and that some were being brought to hospitals on donkey carts.
The Israeli military said it was looking into the reports.
The Health Ministry said the Palestinian death toll from the war has climbed to 30,035, with another 70,457 wounded. It does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its figures but says women and children make up around two-thirds of those killed.
The ministry, which is part of the Hamas-run government, maintains detailed records of casualties. Its counts from previous wars have largely matched those of the UN, independent experts and even Israel’s own tallies.
The Hamas attack into southern Israel that ignited the war killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and the militants seized around 250 hostages. Hamas is still holding around 130 hostages, a quarter of whom are believed to be dead, after releasing most of the others during a weeklong ceasefire in November.


Russian rocket successfully puts Iranian satellite into orbit

Russian rocket successfully puts Iranian satellite into orbit
Updated 29 February 2024
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Russian rocket successfully puts Iranian satellite into orbit

Russian rocket successfully puts Iranian satellite into orbit
  • The Iranian state TV said the 110-kilogram satellite has three cameras

MOSCOW: A Russian rocket on Thursday successfully put an Iranian satellite into orbit, a launch that underlined increasingly close cooperation between Moscow and Tehran.
Russia’s state-run Roscosmos corporation said that a Soyuz rocket blasted off from the Vostochny launch facility in the country’s far east to carry the Iranian satellite and 18 Russian satellites into orbit.
The Iranian state TV said the 110-kilogram satellite has three cameras to take images for environmental, agricultural and other purposes.
Iran’s state TV said the satellite will be put into orbit around the North and South Poles, synchronized to be in the same fixed position relative to the Sun, and will be fully functional after a calibration of its systems.
Thursday’s launch comes after Russia put into orbit the Iranian Khayyam satellite in 2022.
Iran’s Communication Minister Isa Zarepour told the TV that Iran’s space program has had a total of 23 launches, including 12 during President Ebrahim Raisi’s administration.