UK trying to block fair ICJ appraisal of Israeli occupation: Experts

UK trying to block fair ICJ appraisal of Israeli occupation: Experts
Above, a razed tent in the West Bank Palestinian Bedouin village of Al-Qabun after residents fleeing from Israeli settler violence burned most of the items they could not carry. (AP)
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Updated 24 August 2023
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UK trying to block fair ICJ appraisal of Israeli occupation: Experts

UK trying to block fair ICJ appraisal of Israeli occupation: Experts
  • UN’s top court requested to provide advisory opinion following General Assembly vote
  • Outcome of case seen as critical by Israel, Palestine

LONDON: The UK has been accused by international law experts and Palestinian rights activists of attempting to block the International Court of Justice from making a fair appraisal on the Israeli occupation of Palestine, The Guardian reported.

A 43-page legal opinion submitted by the UK to the UN’s top court opposes an expected ICJ advisory ruling on the legal consequences of the “occupation, settlement and annexation” of Palestinian land.

So far, 57 opinions have been sent to the court ahead of the advisory ruling, which is viewed as critical to the future prospects of both Israel and Palestine.

But the UK’s stance is firmly in the minority, with legal experts and rights activists warning that the country’s opinion ignores Israel’s activities and is a “complete endorsement of Israeli talking points.”

Victor Kattan, an assistant professor in public international law at the University of Nottingham, said: “This is a rather weak and uninformed document that portrays Israel’s longstanding occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and its annexation of East Jerusalem, as a bilateral dispute between two states.”

Though the ICJ lacks the power to enforce any decisions, its rulings are legally binding according to international law.

Since the occupation began in 1967, no legal judgment has classified the Israeli strategy as a whole as unlawful, though various aspects have been deemed illegal.

Last December, a UN General Assembly resolution urged the ICJ to reach an advisory opinion, but the UK, Israel and several other Western countries voted against the move, claiming that it would push the two sides away from peace.

In its submission, the UK argues that any ICJ opinion would settle Israel’s “bilateral dispute” without consent, and that the court itself is ill-equipped to resolve the “complex factual issues” at play between both sides.

It adds that an advisory opinion could undermine existing peace arrangements between the two sides, and claims that the request is flawed on the grounds that it “assumes unlawful conduct on the part of Israel.”

Daniel Machover, of Hickman & Rose solicitors in London, said: “It is a matter of concern that the UK is seeking to block the court from addressing such important matters, something I am sure it would not do were the court asked to address comparable issues … such as Russia’s occupation of Ukrainian territory.”

The UK submission also ignores pertinent UN findings since 2016 that highlight Israel’s failure to uphold the rights of Palestinians.

One senior Palestinian source said: “The UK submission is a complete endorsement of Israeli talking points.

“They are not arguing that this is not the right time to go to the ICJ, because the peace process is working. They are saying the Israeli violations Palestinians point out are not as important as negotiation frameworks from decades ago.”

Submissions to the court will remain open until Oct. 25, with deliberations expected to last a year if the ICJ accepts the UN request to provide an advisory opinion.

Israel has criticized the move, with UN envoy Gilad Erdan labeling the General Assembly vote a “moral stain” that undermines his country.

A spokesperson for the UK Foreign Office said: “The UK is committed to working with both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to advance a peaceful two-state solution with Jerusalem as the shared capital.

“We are deeply concerned by instability in the West Bank and call on all sides to work together to urgently de-escalate the situation.”


Gazans say hunger is causing social breakdown, fueling fears of exodus into Egypt

Gazans say hunger is causing social breakdown, fueling fears of exodus into Egypt
Updated 10 sec ago
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Gazans say hunger is causing social breakdown, fueling fears of exodus into Egypt

Gazans say hunger is causing social breakdown, fueling fears of exodus into Egypt
  • Narrow coastal strip has been under a full Israeli blockade since the start of the conflict more than two months ago
  • Over 2.3 million people driven from their homes and residents say it is impossible to find refuge and increasingly food

GAZA: Hamas said it was striking back against Israeli forces across Gaza on Monday and Palestinians and international relief agencies said public order was disintegrating as hunger spread, fueling fears of a mass exodus to Egypt.
The narrow coastal strip has been under a full Israeli blockade since the start of the conflict more than two months ago and the border with Egypt is the only other way out.
Most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been driven from their homes and residents say it is impossible to find refuge, or increasingly food, in the densely populated enclave, with around 18,000 people already killed and conflict intensifying.
Gazans said people forced to flee repeatedly were dying of hunger and cold as well as bombardment, describing desperate attacks on aid trucks and sky high prices.
“Had any of us expected that our people may die of hunger, had it crossed anyone’s mind before?” said Rola Ghanim, among many expressing bewilderment on social media.
Aid trucks risked being stopped by desperate residents if they even slowed down at an intersection, Carl Skau, said deputy executive director of the UN World Food Programme.
“Half of the population are starving, nine out of 10 are not eating every day,” he told Reuters on Saturday.
One Palestinian told Reuters he had not eaten for three days and had to beg for bread for his children.
“I pretend to be strong but I am afraid I will collapse in front of them at any moment,” he said by telephone, declining to be named for fear of reprisals.
After the collapse of a week-long cease-fire on Dec. 1, Israel began a ground offensive in the south last week and has since pushed from the east into the heart of the city of Khan Younis, with warplanes attacking an area to the west.
On Monday, militants and some residents said fighters were preventing Israeli tanks moving further west through the city and clashing with Israeli forces in northern Gaza, where Israel had said its tasks were largely complete.
Israel said dozens of Hamas fighters had surrendered and urged others to join them. The armed wing of Hamas said it had fired rockets toward Tel Aviv, where Israelis fled to shelters.
UN officials say 1.9 million people — 85 percent of Gaza’s population — are displaced and describe the conditions in the southern areas where they have concentrated as hellish.
“I expect public order to completely break down soon and an even worse situation could unfold including epidemic diseases and increased pressure for mass displacement into Egypt,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Sunday.

ISRAEL DENIES SEEKING TO EMPTY GAZA
Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner general of UNRWA, the UN body responsible for the welfare of Palestinian refugees, wrote on Saturday that pushing Gazans closer and closer to the border pointed to “attempts to move Palestinians into Egypt.”
The border with Egypt is heavily fortified, but Hamas militants blew holes in the wall in 2008 to break a tight blockade. Gazans crossed to buy food and other goods but quickly returned, with none permanently displaced.
Egypt has long warned it would not allow Gazans into its territory this time, fearing they would not be able to return.
Jordan, which absorbed the bulk of Palestinians after the creation of Israel in 1948, accused Israel on Sunday of seeking “to empty Gaza of its people.”
Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy called the accusation “outrageous and false,” saying his country was defending itself “from the monsters who perpetrated the Oct. 7 massacre” and bringing them to justice.
Hamas gunmen on Oct. 7 killed 1,200 people and took 240 hostage, according to Israeli tallies. About 100 hostages were freed during the truce, some with relatives left behind.
“I am petrified I will get bad news that he is no longer alive,” Sharon Alony-Cunio, released with her two little girls, told Reuters of her husband, who is still being held.
Israel has vowed to annihilate the militant Islamist group, which has ruled Gaza since 2007 and is sworn to Israel’s destruction.
Since Oct 7. at least 18,205 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza and 49,645 wounded, according to the Gaza health ministry. The toll no longer includes northern Gaza and many people there and elsewhere remain trapped under rubble.
Israel says the instructions to move are among measures to protect the population. It accuses militants from Hamas, which controls Gaza, of using civilians as human shields and stealing humanitarian aid, which Hamas denies.
The Israeli military accused Hamas of hiding weapons in UNRWA facilities in Jabalia and distributed video purporting to show Hamas gunmen beating people and taking aid in the Gaza City district of Shejaia.
Israel has prevented most aid from moving into Gaza, saying it fears it will just fuel Hamas attacks.
Government spokesman Eylon Levy said Israel was working to open the Kerem Shalom crossing which processed most aid before the war and blamed international agencies for holdups at the crossing from Egypt, which is designed for pedestrians.
In the Israeli-occupied West Bank and neighboring Jordan, most shops and businesses closed in response to Palestinian calls for a strike but the impact on Israel was unclear.
The Gaza health ministry said 32 Palestinians were killed in Khan Younis overnight. The armed wing of Hamas said it had hit two Israeli tanks with rockets and fired mortars at Israeli forces.
Militants and residents said fighting was also fierce in Shejaia, east of the center of Gaza City, the northwestern Sheikh Radwan district and Jabalia further north.
In central Gaza, where Israel told people to move on Monday toward “known shelters in the Deir Al-Balah area” health officials said the Shuhada Al-Aqsa hospital had received 40 dead.
Medics also said an Israeli air strike had killed four in a house in Rafah, one of two places near Egypt where Israel says Palestinians should take refuge.


Why aid chiefs see Gaza’s humanitarian crisis worsening in the absence of Israel-Hamas ceasefire

Why aid chiefs see Gaza’s humanitarian crisis worsening in the absence of Israel-Hamas ceasefire
Updated 49 sec ago
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Why aid chiefs see Gaza’s humanitarian crisis worsening in the absence of Israel-Hamas ceasefire

Why aid chiefs see Gaza’s humanitarian crisis worsening in the absence of Israel-Hamas ceasefire
  • The US recently vetoed a UN resolution seeking immediate ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas
  • NGO leaders say they have run out of words to describe the suffering in the embattled enclave

LONDON: Amid a humanitarian situation described as “apocalyptic” by UN human rights chief Volker Turk, nearly 2 million Palestinians in Gaza face a grim fate after the US vetoed on Friday a UN resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire.

The vote came after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sounded the alarm on Wednesday, invoking Article 99 of the UN Charter. The article allows the UN chief to “bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.”

During a recent virtual media briefing, officials from aid organizations active in Gaza said they had run out of words to describe the humanitarian crisis and the horrors unfolding in the embattled enclave.

The meeting was held by the NGOs Action Against Hunger, Amnesty International, Doctors of the World, Medecins Sans Frontieres France, Humanity and Inclusion – Handicap International, Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam, Refugees International, and Save the Children.

The renewed hostilities following the end of the truce, which lasted for six days after it was reached on Nov. 24, have seen Israel expand its ground offensive deeper into southern Gaza, previously declared by the Israeli military as a “safe” area. To date, over 1.8 million Palestinians have been displaced.

Officials of the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza say more than 17,700 Palestinians, including over 7,000 children, have been killed by the Israeli bombardment since Oct. 7.

On that day, the Israeli Defense Forces launched a military campaign in Gaza in retaliation for an attack by Hamas in which more than 1,440 Israelis and foreigners were killed or taken hostage.

As of Sunday, the IDF and Hamas militants were locked in combat in several parts of Gaza, including the main city in the south, Khan Younis, whose residents had been earlier asked to evacuate via an “urgent appeal.”

Describing the humanitarian conditions in southern Gaza, Alexandra Saieh, head of humanitarian policy and advocacy at Save the Children, said at Thursday’s media briefing: “People are in overcrowded shelters, in makeshift tents, with no access to clean water and crumbling sanitation facilities.

“We have heard of children starving in the so-called safe zone of Al-Mawasi.”

Al-Mawasi, a kilometer-wide patch of desert along the coastline of southern Gaza, was touted by Israel as a “safe space” in October.

Approximately 770,000 internally displaced people have sought refuge in 133 shelters, while others in the south have sheltered with host families or slept on the streets, according to Shaina Low, communications adviser at the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Aid workers have not been spared the chaos. Low added that some of the NRC’s staff members, along with their infants, are “sleeping on the streets because they have nowhere safe to seek refuge.”

“Amid relentless air, land and sea attacks, Israel is forcing families to relocate from one perilous zone to another,” she said. “The influx of people into southern Gaza has surged as hundreds of thousands fled from northern Gaza.”

Save the Children’s Saieh recounted colleagues’ accounts of “hundreds of children lining up for a single toilet in the south, children and families roaming the streets of what has not been flattened, with no food, nowhere to go and nothing to survive on.”

“Our teams are telling us of maggots being picked from wounds, and children undergoing amputations without anesthetic. More than a million children, practically all of the child population of Gaza, are left with nowhere to go.”

Sandrine Simon, advocacy and health director at Doctors of the World, warned that the current conditions in southern Gaza “are leading to the outbreak of epidemics.”

She said there has been a significant increase in cases of diarrhea, acute respiratory infections, and skin infections, adding that “soon, famine and epidemics will kill even more surely than bombing.”

The World Health Organization has recorded over 70,000 acute respiratory infections and at least 44,000 cases of diarrhea, half of which are among children under the age of 5. However, actual figures are expected to be significantly higher.

“Diarrhea is a leading cause of child mortality globally,” said Chiara Saccardi, the Middle East’s head of operations at Action Against Hunger, during the media briefing.

She attributed the high number of sick children in Gaza and the looming specter of a health crisis to “the total collapse of the water and sanitation infrastructure in Gaza.”

“There are no bathrooms; people are digging holes in the sand to use as toilets,” Saccardi said. “Some basic essential hygiene items, like (diapers), wipes, and detergent are no longer available.”

Isabelle Defourny, president of MSF, said medical needs in Gaza “have never been as high, but the healthcare system is on the ground.”

Owing to a 16-year Israeli blockade, Gaza’s healthcare system was on the verge of collapse even before the current escalation in hostilities. The WHO said that today, the health system in the devastated strip was “on its knees.”

The IDF has laid siege to several hospitals in Gaza, claiming that Hamas was running command centers in — or underneath — those facilities. Hamas has denied the allegation.

Defourny said MSF staff have witnessed “how hospitals in the north of Gaza were turned into morgues and ruins,” adding that the health facilities are being bombed, shot at by Israeli tanks and guns, encircled, and raided, and that patients and medical staff are being killed.

“Some doctors have had to leave patients behind after facing the unimaginable choice between their lives and those of their patients,” she said. “In the north of the Gaza Strip today, there is no more access to surgery, no more surgical services.”

MSF’s international team in Gaza is now operating in the central area, namely in Al-Aqsa Hospital, and in the south in Al-Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis.

Defourny said the MSF team had to flee Al-Nasser Hospital on Monday evening “due to the intensity of bombardment” around it.

“Today, 65,000 people (in Gaza) are injured,” said Simon of Doctors of the World, stressing that “some will die in excruciating pain for lack of treatment anesthetic” and “thousands more will not have access to surgery and early rehabilitation needed to avoid permanent disability.”

Even humanitarian workers have been unable to access vital healthcare services. Simon said that when one of her colleagues was wounded in a tank attack on a school in which he had taken refuge, it took him hours to reach the hospital.

“And there, hundreds of patients lie on the ground, stepped over by exhausted, traumatized nurses.”

For over 60 days, aid workers in Gaza have faced a multitude of barriers. Today, none of Gaza’s 2.3 million inhabitants can find sufficient food and clean water, according to a statement issued on Dec. 6 by 27 NGOs operating in Gaza.

“Aid delivery has faced severe challenges due to the closures of key crossings like Karem Shalom, and our overstretched teams are also facing death in Gaza,” said Bushra Khalidi, Oxfam’s head of policy for the occupied Palestinian Territories, adding that the situation in Gaza might have “irreversible consequences on Palestinian people.”

“Our colleagues on the ground faced extreme risks in distributing aid, with even basic necessities like water sparking desperate struggles and tensions,” she said. “The scarcity of aid has led to desperate struggles over water, tearing at our social fabric.”

The World Food Programme has estimated that each person in northern Gaza has access to an average of 1.8 liters of safe drinking water per day, while in the south, it is 2 liters.

“(The) human body cannot survive with such a small quantity of water,” said Saccardi of Action Against Hunger.

Saieh lamented that “with the intensity of the government of Israel’s offensive, coupled with the ongoing siege, the ability to provide any humanitarian assistance has been undermined.”

“We are unable to do our job effectively. People have been squeezed into the tiniest areas, cut off from basic necessities and cut off from the basics to survive,” she said.

Officials at Thursday’s briefing called for an immediate international intervention — to prevent further civilian deaths, stop the deepening of the humanitarian crisis, and avert a complete breakdown of the situation on the ground.

Amanda Klasing, national director for government relations at Amnesty International US, called for “a comprehensive UN Security Council arms embargo on Israel, Hamas, and other Palestinian armed groups until there’s no longer substantial risk that arms could be used to commit violations, and that there are effective accountability mechanisms in place.”

In the absence of a Security Council arms embargo, Klasing called on countries, particularly the US, to “immediately impose their own suspensions.”

She said: “Our overall analysis is that violations of international humanitarian law and potential war crimes continue unabated, and therefore the US should suspend arms transfers to Israel.”

Saying that their teams were steadfast in continuing their humanitarian operations in the Gaza Strip despite the obstacles, the participants in the media briefing asserted that only a permanent and definitive ceasefire would allow for an effective humanitarian response.

Unless the violence ceased entirely, they warned the cost would be the lives of more children.


White House: US concerned about reports Israel used white phosphorus in Lebanon attack

White phosphorus fired by the Israeli army to create a smoke screen, is seen on the Israel-Lebanon border in northern Israel.
White phosphorus fired by the Israeli army to create a smoke screen, is seen on the Israel-Lebanon border in northern Israel.
Updated 34 min 54 sec ago
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White House: US concerned about reports Israel used white phosphorus in Lebanon attack

White phosphorus fired by the Israeli army to create a smoke screen, is seen on the Israel-Lebanon border in northern Israel.
  • Kirby said white phosphorus has a “legitimate military utility” for illumination and producing smoke to conceal movements

NEW YORK: The United States is concerned about reports Israel used US-supplied white phosphorus munitions in an October attack in southern Lebanon, White House spokesperson John Kirby said on Monday.
“We’ve seen the reports. Certainly concerned about that. We’ll be asking questions to try to learn a little bit more,” Kirby told reporters on Air Force One.
Kirby said white phosphorus has a “legitimate military utility” for illumination and producing smoke to conceal movements.
“Obviously any time that we provide items like white phosphorous to another military, it is with the full expectation that it will be used in keeping with those legitimate purposes ... and in keeping with the law of armed conflict,” he said.


Japan, UAE to cooperate towards stabilization of international oil market

Japan, UAE to cooperate towards stabilization of international oil market
Updated 47 min 22 sec ago
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Japan, UAE to cooperate towards stabilization of international oil market

Japan, UAE to cooperate towards stabilization of international oil market
  • Sheikh Mohammed told Kishida that UAE was keen on boosting relations with Japan in energy

TOKYO: Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the UAE Armed Forces, spoke with Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida Fumio about the Ukraine crisis and assured him that the UAE was keen to maintain energy security and keep global markets stable.

In a Japan-UAE Summit telephone talk, Sheikh Mohammed also told Kishida that his country was keen on boosting relations with Japan in the energy field.

Kishida said that the UAE was a strategic partner for Japan and expressed his intention to foster close ties with Sheikh Mohamed, and expressed his congratulations on the success of Expo 2020 Dubai.

Sheikh Mohamed outlined his renewed hopes for strengthening bilateral relations with Japan, and also expressed his gratitude for Japan’s participation in Expo 2020 Dubai, according to the ministry.

The two leaders also exchanged views on “soaring” crude oil prices in the wake of the situation in Ukraine.

Kishida called for the UAE’s further proactive contribution to the stabilization of the crude oil market as a member of OPEC, and the two leaders confirmed that the UAE and Japan would cooperate towards the stabilization of the international oil market.

The leaders confirmed the strengthening of their bilateral relationship, including through signing the framework document for the “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Initiative,” and in promoting cooperation in various fields, especially as 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and the UAE.

Kishida requested the UAE’s support in securing safe means for Japanese nationals in Russia to return to Japan. In response, Sheikh Mohamed said that the UAE was committed to closely cooperating with Japan.

The two leaders exchanged views on the situation in the Middle East, including Yemen and Iran, and confirmed the continuation of their close cooperation.

(With inputs from WAM)

* This article originally appeared on Arab News Japan. Click here to read it.


Strong voter turnout on 2nd day of Egypt presidential election

Strong voter turnout on 2nd day of Egypt presidential election
Updated 11 December 2023
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Strong voter turnout on 2nd day of Egypt presidential election

Strong voter turnout on 2nd day of Egypt presidential election
  • Queues started forming on Monday at some polling stations in Cairo and elsewhere in the country long before they opened at 9 a.m.
  • Polls close at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, with the election results due to be announced on Dec. 18

CAIRO: Egyptian voters turned out in force on the second and penultimate day of a presidential election in which President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi was expected to sweep to a third, six-year term in office.

Queues started forming on Monday at some polling stations in Cairo and elsewhere in the country long before they opened at 9 a.m.

El-Sisi is competing against three other candidates: Abdel-Sanad Yamama, the head of Wafd, Egypt’s oldest party, Hazem Omar, leader of the Republican People’s Party, and Farid Zahran, of the Social Democratic Party.

In the coastal city of Alexandria, El-Sisi’s electoral campaign officials reported a strong turnout at ballot boxes, and voting centers were said to be particularly busy in central Cairo and the southwestern New Valley Governorate.

Moushira Khattab, president of Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights, said: “We are reassured about the conduct of the presidential elections.” She added that the council had so far not received any complaints relating to election conduct.

National Elections Authority officials said that voting operations were proceeding in a disciplined and smooth manner, adding that voter turnout on Sunday had also been brisk.

Polls close at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, with the election results due to be announced on Dec. 18.

Passant Tarek, a 27-year-old dentist who cast her vote in Suez, said: “Voting is our duty, and it is the least we can do for the country, especially during these critical times and with the developments happening around the world.”