UN says over 200 former Afghan military, officials killed since Taliban takeover

UN says over 200 former Afghan military, officials killed since Taliban takeover
The most targeted groups have been former army, police and intelligence forces, according to the report from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. (AP Filephoto)
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Updated 22 August 2023
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UN says over 200 former Afghan military, officials killed since Taliban takeover

UN says over 200 former Afghan military, officials killed since Taliban takeover
  • The mission said in a report it had recorded at least 218 extrajudicial killings with links to the Taliban from their takeover of Afghanistan in mid-2021 up to June

More than 200 members of Afghanistan’s former military, law enforcement and government have been killed since the Taliban took over, the UN mission in Afghanistan said on Tuesday, despite a “general amnesty” for old enemies.
The mission said in a report it had recorded at least 218 extrajudicial killings with links to the Taliban from their takeover of Afghanistan in mid-2021 up to June.
“In most instances, individuals were detained by de facto security forces, often briefly, before being killed,” the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said.
Senior Taliban leaders have said there is an amnesty for former government officials and members of the military by order of their supreme leader.
The Taliban-led foreign affairs ministry said in response to UNAMA that it had not received reports of any cases of non-compliance with the order and any cases that did occur would be investigated.
About half of the killings recorded by UNAMA occurred in the four months after the Taliban took over, as US backed foreign forces were withdrawing, in August 2021, and 70 were recorded in 2022.
“For the majority of violations discussed in this report, there is limited information regarding measures taken by the de facto authorities to investigate incidents and hold perpetrators to account,” UNAMA said, referring to the Taliban administration.
“The apparent impunity with which members of the de facto authorities continue to commit human rights violations against former government officials and ANDSF members is of serious concern,” UNAMA said, referring to the old Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
In total, UNAMA had recorded 800 incidents of human rights violations connected with the Taliban against former government employees and military including arbitrary arrests, disappearance and torture.
The majority were against former members of the security forces and police, the mission said.
The Taliban-led foreign affairs ministry said their supreme spiritual leader had issued the amnesty order and another order against torture or ill-treatment of people in custody.
It denied state sanctioned extra-judicial killings or targeting people who fought in or worked for the foreign-backed former government.
“No military staff of the previous administration has been arrested, detained or tortured because of his activities in the security institutions,” it said in a statement that the UN issued with its report.
“Those employees of the previous administration who joined the opposition groups of the Islamic Emirate (the Taliban administration) or had military activities to the detriment of the system, have been arrested and introduced to judicial authorities.”


Sweden set to join NATO after Hungary approves bid

Sweden set to join NATO after Hungary approves bid
Updated 27 February 2024
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Sweden set to join NATO after Hungary approves bid

Sweden set to join NATO after Hungary approves bid
  • Every NATO member has to approve a new country however, and Hungary’s vote ended more than a year of delays that frustrated the other 31 nations as Ukraine battled Russian troops

STOCKHOLHM: Sweden on Monday cleared its final obstacle to joining NATO after Hungary’s parliament ratified the bid in what Sweden’s prime minister called a “historic day,” while other alliance members expressed relief at the move spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Sweden would make the alliance “stronger and safer” while the United States, the main alliance power, as well as Britain and Germany welcomed Sweden’s now imminent accession.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that having Sweden in NATO “strengthens our defense alliance and with it the security of Europe and the world.”
Russia’s invasion two years ago prompted Sweden and neighboring Finland to apply to join the trans-Atlantic bloc, ending their longstanding stance of non-alignment.
Every NATO member has to approve a new country however, and Hungary’s vote ended more than a year of delays that frustrated the other 31 nations as Ukraine battled Russian troops.
Finland joined in April last year, but Sweden’s bid was stalled by both Hungary and Turkiye, with Ankara approving Stockholm’s candidacy only last month.
Hungary then followed, with 188 parliament members voting in favor and six far-right deputies against.
“Today is a historic day... Sweden stands ready to shoulder its responsibility for Euro-Atlantic security,” Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said on X.
Speaking about Russia’s potential reaction, Kristersson told a press conference: “The only thing we can expect with any certainty is that they don’t like Sweden becoming a member of NATO, nor Finland.”
Going forward, “Nordic countries will have a common defense for the first time in 500 years... we remain friends, and we become allies,” he said.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban had long stalled Sweden’s membership but told parliament that it would “strengthen Hungary’s security.”
Though repeatedly saying it supported Swedish membership in principle, Hungary kept prolonging the process, asking Stockholm to stop “vilifying” the Hungarian government.
After a meeting on Friday between the nationalist Orban and Kristersson in Budapest, the Hungarian leader announced that the two had clarified “our mutual good intentions.”
Hungary also signed a deal to acquire four Swedish-made fighter jets, expanding its fleet of 14 Jas-39 Gripen fighters.
Hungary’s president is expected to sign the law within days. Sweden, which has been militarily neutral for two centuries, will then be invited to accede to the Washington Treaty and officially become NATO’s 32nd member.
All Baltic nations except Russia will now be part of the alliance.
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni of Italy, which currently presides the G7 group of industrialized democracies, said Sweden’s entry “reinforced NATO for the defense of peace and freedom on the European continent.”
Alongside its move into NATO, Sweden signed an accord in December that gives the United States access to 17 Swedish military bases.
The looming membership has been accompanied by a toughening of declarations by its leaders. General Per Micael Buden, commander-in-chief of the Swedish military, said in January that Swedish people “must mentally prepare for war.”
“It is the last piece of the puzzle in the NATO map for northern Europe,” said Robert Dalsjo, an analyst for the Swedish Defense Research Agency (FOI).
People in Sweden mainly cheered the approval.
Jimmy Dahllof, 35, said Sweden would be “safer... bringing us closer to our European neighbors.”
“I am very relieved because we have been waiting so long,” said Ingrid Lindskrog, a 73-year-old pensioner.
In Hungary’s delay, some experts saw a strategy to wring concessions from the European Union, which has frozen billions of euros in funds because of the nationalist government’s policies.
Others argued it underlined Orban’s closeness to the presidents of Russia and Turkiye.
For Mate Szalai, an analyst at Venice’s Ca’ Foscari University, Orban was simply playing to his domestic audience.
“Orban wanted to go as far as he could without causing serious problems to the trans-Atlantic community while proving that Hungary is a power to be reckoned with,” he told AFP.
Many of his acts are intended to provoke Europe, Szalai added.
 

 


Biden hopes ceasefire, hostage deal to pause Israel-Hamas war can take effect by next Monday

US President Joe Biden walks to Marine One. (AFP)
US President Joe Biden walks to Marine One. (AFP)
Updated 27 February 2024
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Biden hopes ceasefire, hostage deal to pause Israel-Hamas war can take effect by next Monday

US President Joe Biden walks to Marine One. (AFP)
  • Israel has killed over 29,000 Palestinians, more than 70 percent of them women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry

NEW YORK: President Joe Biden said Monday that he hopes a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that would pause hostilities and allow for remaining hostages to be released can take effect by early next week.
Asked when he thought a ceasefire could begin, Biden said: “Well I hope by the beginning of the weekend. The end of the weekend. My national security adviser tells me that we’re close. We’re close. We’re not done yet. My hope is by next Monday we’ll have a ceasefire.”
Biden commented in New York after taping an appearance on NBC’s “Late Night With Seth Meyers.”
Negotiations are underway for a weekslong ceasefire between Israel and Hamas to allow for the release of hostages being held in Gaza by the militant group in return for Israel releasing hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. The proposed six-week pause in fighting would also include allowing hundreds of trucks to deliver desperately needed aid into Gaza every day.
Negotiators face an unofficial deadline of the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan around March 10, a period that often sees heightened Israeli-Palestinian tensions.
Meanwhile, Israel has failed to comply with an order by the United Nations’ top court to provide urgently needed aid to desperate people in the Gaza Strip, Human Rights Watch said Monday, a month after a landmark ruling in The Hague ordered Israel to moderate its war.
In a preliminary response to a South African petition accusing Israel of genocide, the UN’s top court ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide in the tiny Palestinian enclave. It stopped short of ordering an end to the military offensive that has triggered a humanitarian catastrophe.
Israel denies the charges against it, saying it is fighting in self-defense.
Nearly five months into the war, preparations are underway for Israel to expand its ground operation into Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost town along the border with Egypt, where 1.4 million Palestinians have sought safety.
Early Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the army had presented to the War Cabinet its operational plan for Rafah as well as plans to evacuate civilians from the battle zones. It gave no further details.
The situation in Rafah has sparked global concern. Israel’s allies have warned that it must protect civilians in its battle against the Hamas militant group.
Also Monday, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh submitted his government’s resignation, and President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to appoint technocrats in line with US demands for internal reform. The US has called for a revitalized Palestinian Authority to govern postwar Gaza ahead of eventual statehood — a scenario rejected by Israel.
In its Jan. 26 ruling, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to follow six provisional measures, including taking “immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance” to Gaza.
Israel also must submit a report on what it is doing to adhere to the measures within a month. The Israeli Foreign Ministry said late Monday that it has filed such a report. It declined to share it or discuss its contents.
Israel said 245 trucks of aid entered Gaza on Sunday. That’s less than half the amount that entered daily before the war.
Human Rights Watch, citing UN figures, noted a 30 percent drop in the daily average number of aid trucks entering Gaza in the weeks following the court’s ruling. It said that between Jan. 27 and Feb. 21, the daily average of trucks entering was 93, compared to 147 trucks a day in the three weeks before the ruling. The daily average dropped to 57, between Feb. 9 and 21, the figures showed.
The rights group said Israel was not adequately facilitating fuel deliveries to hard-hit northern Gaza and blamed Israel for blocking aid from reaching the north, where the World Food Program said last week it was forced to suspend aid deliveries.
“The Israeli government has simply ignored the court’s ruling, and in some ways even intensified its repression,” said Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch.
The Association of International Development Agencies, a coalition of over 70 humanitarian organizations working in Gaza and the West Bank, said almost no aid had reached areas in Gaza north of Rafah since the court’s ruling.
Israel denies it is restricting the entry of aid and has instead blamed humanitarian organizations operating in Gaza, saying large aid shipments sit idle on the Palestinian side of the main crossing. The UN says it can’t always reach the crossing because it is at times too dangerous.
In some cases, crowds of desperate Palestinians have surrounded delivery trucks and stripped them of supplies. The UN has called on Israel to open more crossings, including in the north, and to improve the process.
Netanyahu’s office said that the War Cabinet had approved a plan to deliver humanitarian aid safely into Gaza in a way that would “prevent the cases of looting.” It did not disclose further details.
The war, launched after Hamas-led militants rampaged across southern Israel, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking roughly 250 people hostage, has caused vast devastation in Gaza.
Nearly 30,000 people have been killed in Gaza, two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry which does not distinguish in its count between fighters and noncombatants. Israel says it has killed 10,000 militants, without providing evidence.
Fighting has flattened large swaths of Gaza’s urban landscape, displacing about 80 percent of the territory’s 2.3 million people, who have crammed into increasingly smaller spaces looking for elusive safety.
The crisis has pushed a quarter of the population toward starvation and raised fears of imminent famine, especially in the northern part of Gaza, the first focus of Israel’s ground invasion. Starving residents have been forced to eat animal fodder and search for food in demolished buildings.
“I wish death for the children because I cannot get them bread. I cannot feed them. I cannot feed my own children!” Naim Abouseido yelled as he waited for aid in Gaza City. “What did we do to deserve this?”
Bushra Khalidi with UK aid organization Oxfam told The Associated Press that it had verified reports that children have died of starvation in the north in recent weeks, which she said indicated aid was not being scaled up despite the court ruling.
Aid groups say deliveries also continue to be hobbled by security issues. The French aid groups Médecins du Monde and Doctors Without Borders each said that their facilities were struck by Israeli forces in the weeks following the court order.

 


France’s Macron does not rule out Europeans sending troops to Ukraine

France’s Macron does not rule out Europeans sending troops to Ukraine
Updated 21 min 34 sec ago
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France’s Macron does not rule out Europeans sending troops to Ukraine

France’s Macron does not rule out Europeans sending troops to Ukraine

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron opened the door on Monday to European nations sending troops to Ukraine, although he cautioned that there was no consensus at this stage as allies agreed to ramp up efforts to deliver more munitions to Kyiv.

Some 20 European leaders gathered in Paris on Monday to send Russian President Vladimir Putin a message of European resolve on Ukraine and counter the Kremlin’s narrative that Russia is bound to win a war now in its third year.

“There is no consensus at this stage ... to send troops on the ground,” Macron told reporters. “Nothing should be excluded. We will do everything that we must so that Russia does not win.”

A White House official told Reuters that the United States had no plans to send troops to fight in Ukraine and that there were also no plans to send NATO troops to fight in Ukraine.

Macron invited his European counterparts to the Elysee palace for a hastily arranged meeting to discuss how to ramp up ammunition supplies to Ukraine amid what his advisers say is an escalation in Russian aggression over the past few weeks.

After initial successes in pushing back the Russian army, Ukraine has suffered setbacks on eastern battlefields, with its generals complaining of shortages of arms and soldiers.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who has opposed military aid to Ukraine, said several NATO and EU members were considering sending soldiers to Ukraine on a bilateral basis.

“I can confirm there are countries that are prepared to send their own troops to Ukraine, there are countries that say never, among which Slovakia belongs, and there are countries that say this proposal needs to be considered,” he said before boarding his plane home.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who is the frontrunner to become the next secretary general of NATO, told reporters the issue of sending troops was not the focus of Monday’s talks.

Addressing the leaders via videolink, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky backed Macron’s warning about an escalation of the conflict: “We must ensure that Putin cannot destroy our achievements and cannot expand his aggression to other nations.”

Macron said: “Many people who say ‘Never, never’ today were the same people who said ‘never tanks, never planes, never long-range missiles’ two years ago

“Let us have the humility to note that we have often been six to twelve months late. This was the objective of this evening’s discussion: everything is possible if it is useful to achieve our objective,” he said, adding that Europe should not depend on the United States to fight in Ukraine.

MORE AMMUNITION

There was progress on a Czech-led initiative to buy hundreds of thousands of ammunition rounds from third countries, something that France has been cautious about as it wants to prioritize developing Europe’s own industry.

Ammunition supplies have become a critical issue for Kyiv. The European Union, though, is falling short of its target of sending Ukraine a million rounds of artillery shells by March.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said about 15 countries had agreed to sign up to his initiative. Macron said Paris would also do so and that a coalition to speed up delivery of long-range missiles had also been agreed.

“We are talking about hundreds of thousands of pieces of ammunition we should and could get in relatively short time,” Fiala told reporters.

Defense ministers had been mandated to come up with a plan within the next 10 days, Portugal’s Prime Minister Antonio Costa said.

Rutte said the Netherlands would contribute 100 million euros ($108.5 million) for the purchase of munitions overseas. He said the countries that would provide the munitions had asked not to be identified.

“I think there was a great sense of urgency, particularly for the short-term on ammunition and on air defense,” Rutte said. “I hope other countries will follow.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, British foreign minister David Cameron as well as leaders from Scandinavian and Baltic nations, were among those also attending.

The United States, which has been under much scrutiny as its latest military aid package for Ukraine has stalled in Congress, was represented by Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Jim O’Brien.

French officials said Macron, who is due in Kyiv in March, was keen to seek solutions after a security conference in Munich this month failed to make progress.

“We’re neither doomy nor gloomy,” the French adviser said. “We want Russia to understand that. Russia will have to count on us all collectively to end this war.”

French officials said Russia has shown renewed aggression in recent weeks, including Putin’s flight on a nuclear-capable bomber, in what they view as an attempt to intimidate Europeans at a time US support is thrown into doubt by the presidential election.


Greek frigate departs to join EU Red Sea mission

Greek frigate departs to join EU Red Sea mission
Updated 17 min 39 sec ago
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Greek frigate departs to join EU Red Sea mission

Greek frigate departs to join EU Red Sea mission
  • Many commercial shippers have diverted vessels following attacks by the Houthis who control much of Yemen and say they are acting in solidarity with the Palestinians as Israel and Hamas wage war in Gaza

ATHENS: Greece’s frigate Hydra departed for the Red Sea on Monday to participate in a mission to protect merchant ships from attacks by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militia, a defense ministry official said.
Earlier on Monday, the Greek government approved the country’s participation in the European Union naval mission dubbed Eunavfor Aspides in the Red Sea.
Many commercial shippers have diverted vessels following attacks by the Houthis who control much of Yemen and say they are acting in solidarity with the Palestinians as Israel and Hamas wage war in Gaza.
Greece’s security council approved a proposal by Defense Minister Nikos Dendias for participation in the EU mission, government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis said in a statement.
The government said it was important to join the mission as the Houthi attacks have disrupted Greek-owned commercial vessels’ activities at the country’s biggest port Piraeus and some container ships have stopped using it.
France, Italy and Germany are also taking part in the EU mission, under the code name “Aspides,” the Greek word for shields.
Participating countries will be mandated to protect commercial ships and intercept attacks, but not take part in strikes against the Houthis on land.
Several Greek-owned merchant ships have been hit off Yemen since November, suffering damages but no casualties.

 


Human Rights Watch accuses Israel of blocking aid to Palestinians in violation of a UN court order

Human Rights Watch accuses Israel of blocking aid to Palestinians in violation of a UN court order
Updated 27 February 2024
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Human Rights Watch accuses Israel of blocking aid to Palestinians in violation of a UN court order

Human Rights Watch accuses Israel of blocking aid to Palestinians in violation of a UN court order
  • Israel killed 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza, two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry
  • Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh submitted his government’s resignation, and President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to appoint technocrats in line with US demands for internal reform

RAFAH, Gaza Strip: Israel has failed to comply with an order by the United Nations’ top court to provide urgently needed aid to desperate people in the Gaza Strip, Human Rights Watch said Monday, a month after a landmark ruling in The Hague ordered Israel to moderate its war.
In a preliminary response to a South African petition accusing Israel of genocide, the UN’s top court ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide in the tiny Palestinian enclave. It stopped short of ordering an end to the military offensive that has triggered a humanitarian catastrophe.
Israel denies the charges against it, saying it is fighting in self-defense.

A donkey-pulled car passes in front of the Al-Faruq mosque, levelled by Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on a foggy day on February 25, 2024, amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (AFP)

Nearly five months into the war, preparations are underway for Israel to expand its ground operation into Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost town along the border with Egypt, where 1.4 million Palestinians have sought safety.
Early Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the army had presented to the War Cabinet its operational plan for Rafah as well as plans to evacuate civilians from the battle zones. It gave no further details.
The situation in Rafah has sparked global concern. Israel’s allies have warned that it must protect civilians in its battle against the Hamas militant group.

Palestinians visit a cemetery, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 26, 2024. (REUTERS)

Also Monday, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh submitted his government’s resignation, and President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to appoint technocrats in line with US demands for internal reform. The US has called for a revitalized Palestinian Authority to govern postwar Gaza ahead of eventual statehood — a scenario rejected by Israel.
In its Jan. 26 ruling, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to follow six provisional measures, including taking “immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance” to Gaza.
Israel also must submit a report on what it is doing to adhere to the measures within a month. The Israeli Foreign Ministry said late Monday that it has filed such a report. It declined to share it or discuss its contents.

People walk in front of the Al-Faruk mosque, levelled by Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 25, 2024, amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (AFP)

Israel said 245 trucks of aid entered Gaza on Sunday. That’s less than half the amount that entered daily before the war.
Human Rights Watch, citing UN figures, noted a 30 percent drop in the daily average number of aid trucks entering Gaza in the weeks following the court’s ruling. It said that between Jan. 27 and Feb. 21, the daily average of trucks entering was 93, compared to 147 trucks a day in the three weeks before the ruling. The daily average dropped to 57, between Feb. 9 and 21, the figures showed.
The rights group said Israel was not adequately facilitating fuel deliveries to hard-hit northern Gaza and blamed Israel for blocking aid from reaching the north, where the World Food Program said last week it was forced to suspend aid deliveries.
“The Israeli government has simply ignored the court’s ruling, and in some ways even intensified its repression,” said Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch.
The Association of International Development Agencies, a coalition of over 70 humanitarian organizations working in Gaza and the West Bank, said almost no aid had reached areas in Gaza north of Rafah since the court’s ruling.
Israel denies it is restricting the entry of aid and has instead blamed humanitarian organizations operating in Gaza, saying large aid shipments sit idle on the Palestinian side of the main crossing. The UN says it can’t always reach the crossing because it is at times too dangerous.
In some cases, crowds of desperate Palestinians have surrounded delivery trucks and stripped them of supplies. The UN has called on Israel to open more crossings, including in the north, and to improve the process.
Netanyahu’s office said that the War Cabinet had approved a plan to deliver humanitarian aid safely into Gaza in a way that would “prevent the cases of looting.” It did not disclose further details.
The war, launched after Hamas-led militants rampaged across southern Israel, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking roughly 250 people hostage, has caused vast devastation in Gaza.
Nearly 30,000 people have been killed in Gaza, two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry which does not distinguish in its count between fighters and noncombatants. Israel says it has killed 10,000 militants, without providing evidence.
Fighting has flattened large swaths of Gaza’s urban landscape, displacing about 80 percent of the territory’s 2.3 million people, who have crammed into increasingly smaller spaces looking for elusive safety.
The crisis has pushed a quarter of the population toward starvation and raised fears of imminent famine, especially in the northern part of Gaza, the first focus of Israel’s ground invasion. Starving residents have been forced to eat animal fodder and search for food in demolished buildings.
“I wish death for the children because I cannot get them bread. I cannot feed them. I cannot feed my own children!” Naim Abouseido yelled as he waited for aid in Gaza City. “What did we do to deserve this?”
Bushra Khalidi with UK aid organization Oxfam told The Associated Press that it had verified reports that children have died of starvation in the north in recent weeks, which she said indicated aid was not being scaled up despite the court ruling.
Aid groups say deliveries also continue to be hobbled by security issues. The French aid groups Médecins du Monde and Doctors Without Borders each said that their facilities were struck by Israeli forces in the weeks following the court order.