UN head of mission to Sudan resigns

Volker Perthes, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sudan and Head of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan, has resigned. (File/AFP)
Volker Perthes, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sudan and Head of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan, has resigned. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 13 September 2023
Follow

UN head of mission to Sudan resigns

Volker Perthes has resigned. (File/AFP)
  • Volker Perthes urges military leaders to ‘negotiate and implement cessation of hostilities’
  • Sudan’s military leader Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan reportedly accused the envoy of ‘being partisan’

LONDON: Volker Perthes, UN head of mission to Sudan, has resigned three months after being declared “persona non grata” by the government with the country edging closer to full-scale civil war.

Perthes told a meeting of the UN Security Council on Wednesday that it would be his “last briefing in this function” as he urged the military leaders, whom he previously unanimously blamed the conflict on, to “negotiate and implement a cessation of hostilities.”

Perthes told the 15-member council: “I have had the privilege to serve as the UN secretary-general’s special representative for Sudan for more than two and a half years.

“I am grateful to the secretary-general for that opportunity and for his confidence in me, but I have asked him to relieve me of this duty. This will therefore be my last briefing in this function. I wish to thank UN staff in Sudan for their ceaseless engagement and support.”

In May, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres rejected a request from Sudan’s military leader Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan to remove Perthes.

Burhan, who threatened to expel Perthes from the country, reportedly accused the envoy of “being partisan,” claiming his strategy in pre-war talks between the generals and the pro-democracy movement had only aggravated the conflict.

However, having previously rejected Perthes’ request to resign, Guterres recognized Perthes’ “very strong reasons to resign,” stating today that he had to “accept his resignation.”

Members of the council, including the UAE, US, and Malta, regretted Perthes’ departure but applauded his “professionalism and tireless efforts” in the role, with Malta noting that it remained “firm in belief that blaming UN officials does not help.”

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield added: “The threats are unacceptable. Nobody should be allowed to threaten (the) council’s work for peace and stability.”

In summing up the state of conflict, Perthes said that “what started as a conflict between two military formations could be morphing into a full-blown civil war,” expressing particular concern over the mobilization of former regime elements “advocating a continuation of the war.”

He added that “both sides’ military leaders are needed to negotiate and implement cessation of hostilities, but military leaders should not continue to rule the country.”

Some 7,500 people have been killed since the conflict between Burhan loyalists and fighters of the paramilitary Rapid Military Support Forces led by his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo erupted on April 15.

James Kariuki, deputy permanent representative of the UK mission to the UN, urged Burhan and Dagalo to “find peace,” adding that the UK was committed to the Sudanese people.

Speaking after Perthes, Edem Wosornu, director of operations and advocacy at the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told the council that the number of displaced people had risen to 5 million, with more than 20 million experiencing food insecurity.

Although 3.2 million had received some form of humanitarian support in the last three months, 18 million had been left wanting as bureaucracy hampered aid efforts, Wosornu noted.

She added: “We call on Sudanese authorities to facilitate aid by removing bureaucratic hurdles. We have been in continuous dialogue with them and are thankful for the 70 visas (issued) in the last two weeks alone but have 240 pending.

“The conflict is expanding, the death toll has increased, and sexual violence raised to exceptional levels. This could be a harbinger of a return to horrors seen in the past.”

Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, the UAE’s permanent representative to the UN, told the council that her country remained steadfast in its support for regional efforts to end the conflict and urged the warring factions to abide by international humanitarian law.

Nusseibeh’s call came amid worrying claims of both sides not only arbitrarily detaining and arresting civilians but also executing them.

“It has been half a year since the outbreak of hostilities and the conditions on the ground and displacement of millions underscores the need to address this situation, and we must explore and coordinate to achieve tangible impact on the ground,” she added.

“The need of Sudanese people must reign above all other considerations. We must act to stop the tearing apart of Sudanese social fabric.”

Even amid the chaos, Nusseibeh pointed to rays of optimism, noting that the UAE had been encouraged by humanitarian efforts undertaken by Sudan’s neighbors, and expressed appreciation for the role of the UN mission in Sudan as she encouraged it to continue coordinating humanitarian efforts.

Pointing to the Sudanese people’s “indomitable spirit,” Perthes stressed that the country must not be left to “endure the ghosts of this war indefinitely.”


Four killed, several wounded by gunfire near mosque in Oman: local police 

Four killed, several wounded by gunfire near mosque in Oman: local police 
Updated 16 July 2024
Follow

Four killed, several wounded by gunfire near mosque in Oman: local police 

Four killed, several wounded by gunfire near mosque in Oman: local police 

RIYADH: Four people were killed and several wounded by gunfire in the vicinity of a mosque in Oman’s Wadi Al-Kabir, the Omani Police said on X early Tuesday.

“All security measures have been taken to deal with the situation. Evidence-gathering and investigation procedures will continue,” the police said.

The omani force expressed condolences to the families of the victims and wished the injured a speedy recovery. 


US military confirms Houthi attacks on vessels in Red Sea

US military confirms Houthi attacks on vessels in Red Sea
Updated 16 July 2024
Follow

US military confirms Houthi attacks on vessels in Red Sea

US military confirms Houthi attacks on vessels in Red Sea

WASHINGTON: Houthis launched multiple attacks in the Red Sea against MT Bentley I, which was carrying vegetable oil from Russia to China, and also attacked the Chios Lion tanker ship, the U.S. military said on X on Monday.
 

 


Israeli drone strike along Lebanon-Syria border kills Syrian businessman close to the government

Vehicles drive along a road, on the day of the parliamentary elections, in Damascus, Syria July 15, 2024. (REUTERS)
Vehicles drive along a road, on the day of the parliamentary elections, in Damascus, Syria July 15, 2024. (REUTERS)
Updated 16 July 2024
Follow

Israeli drone strike along Lebanon-Syria border kills Syrian businessman close to the government

Vehicles drive along a road, on the day of the parliamentary elections, in Damascus, Syria July 15, 2024. (REUTERS)
  • Israel, which has vowed to stop Iranian entrenchment in its northern neighbor, has carried out hundreds of strikes on targets in government-controlled parts of Syria in recent years, but it rarely acknowledges them

BEIRUT: An Israeli drone strike on a car Monday near the Lebanon-Syria border killed a prominent Syrian businessman who was sanctioned by the United States and had close ties to the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, according to pro-government media and an official from an Iran-backed group.
Mohammed Baraa Katerji was killed when a drone strike hit his car near the area of Saboura, a few kilometers or miles inside Syria after apparently crossing from Lebanon. Israel’s air force has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in recent years, mainly targeting members of Iran-backed groups and Syria’s military. But it has been rare to hit personalities from within the government.
The strike also came as Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah group have been exchanging fire on an almost daily basis since early October, after the start of the Israel-Hamas war.
An official from an Iran-backed group said that Katerji was killed instantly while in his SUV on the highway linking Lebanon with Syria. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.
The pro-government Al-Watan daily quoted unnamed “sources” as saying that Katerji, 48, was killed in a “Zionist drone strike on his car.” It gave no further details.
Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based opposition war monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that Katerji was killed while in a car with Lebanese license plates, adding that he was apparently targeted because he used to fund the “Syrian resistance” against Israel in the Golan Heights, as well as his links to Iran-backed groups in Syria.
Israel, which has vowed to stop Iranian entrenchment in its northern neighbor, has carried out hundreds of strikes on targets in government-controlled parts of Syria in recent years, but it rarely acknowledges them.
The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, sanctioned Katerji in 2018 as Assad’s middleman to trade oil with the Daesh group and for facilitating weapons shipments from Iraq to Syria.
The US Treasury declined Associated Press requests for comment. The sanctions imposed on Katerji were authorized under an Obama-era executive order issued in 2011 that prohibits certain transactions with Syria. A search of the OFAC database indicates that the sanctions were still in effect against Katerji and his firm at the time of his death.
OFAC said in 2018 that Katerji was responsible for import and export activities in Syria and assisted with transporting weapons and ammunition under the pretext of importing and exporting food items. These shipments were overseen by the US­ designated Syrian General Intelligence Directorate, according to OFAC.
It added that the Syria-based Katerji Company is a trucking company that has also shipped weapons from Iraq to Syria. Additionally, in a 2016 trade deal between the government of Syria and IS, the Katerji Company was identified as the exclusive agent for providing supplies to IS-controlled areas, including oil and other commodities.
Katerji and his brother, Hussam — widely referred to in Syria as the “Katerji brothers” — got involved in oil business a few years after the country’s conflict began in March 2011. Hussam Katerji is a former member of Syria’s parliament.
 

 


Israel waging ‘war of revenge’ on Palestinian prisoners: PA minister

Israel waging ‘war of revenge’ on Palestinian prisoners: PA minister
Updated 16 July 2024
Follow

Israel waging ‘war of revenge’ on Palestinian prisoners: PA minister

Israel waging ‘war of revenge’ on Palestinian prisoners: PA minister
  • Accounts of alleged mistreatment including torture, rape and other sexual abuses in Israeli jails have all been denied by Israeli authorities

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: The Palestinian Authority’s prisoners affairs minister on Monday accused Israel of waging an abusive “war of revenge” against Palestinian detainees since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.
Accounts of alleged mistreatment including torture, rape and other sexual abuses in Israeli jails have all been denied by Israeli authorities.
“Israel has been waging a war of revenge against prisoners within the walls of prisons and detention centers since the first day of the decision to go to war against Gaza,” said the PA’s Prisoners’ Affairs Authority head Qadura Fares.
Speaking at a press conference in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, he added that Palestinian prisoners were treated as “hostages” and the mistreatment was part of the “pressure.”
The authority’s lawyer Khaled MaHajjna denounced abuses which he said he had been told of when he visited detained Gaza journalists Mohammed Arab and Tariq Abed at the Ofer detention center near Ramallah.
MaHajjna said he was told how guards forced one prisoner to “lay on his stomach naked and then a fire extinguisher tube was inserted into his buttocks and the fire extinguisher was turned on.”
He said he was told how other inmates had “electric prods” used on their bodies.
In parallel to increasing complaints by Palestinians, some Israeli rights groups are fighting for a court order to close Sde Teiman, a desert detention camp just for detainees during Israel’s war with militant group Hamas.
The Israeli military said it “rejects outright allegations concerning systematic abuse of detainees in the ‘Sde Teiman’ detention facility, including allegations of sexually abusing detainees.” It also said that it acts within international law.
The lawyer said prisoners were handcuffed when they ate and that meals consisted of 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of bread or tomatoes with some milk.
MaHajjna quoted Arab as saying that he saw one handcuffed prisoner die after being beaten for demanding medical treatment. He said about 100 detainees had diseases and wounds in desperate need of treatment.
He alleged that some prisoners had their hands bound before dogs were then set upon them.
Five Israeli rights groups have gone to court over conditions at Sde Teiman.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), one of the five, said that the high court on Monday ordered the government to respond within three days to the original petition filed in May.
ACRI, Physicians for Human Rights, HaMoked, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and Gisha have demanded the closure of Sde Teiman, saying that “severe violations of detainees’ rights” make imprisonment at the facility “unconstitutional and untenable.”
The government has not commented on the case.
According to the Palestinian Prisoners Club, around 9,600 Palestinians are in Israeli jails, including hundreds under administrative detention which allows the military to keep detainees for long periods without being charged or produced in court.
The war started with Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
The militants also seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom are still in Gaza including 42 the Israeli military says are dead.
Israel’s military retaliation has killed at least 38,664 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to data from the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.


US voices concern to Israeli officials after Gaza strikes

US voices concern to Israeli officials after Gaza strikes
Updated 16 July 2024
Follow

US voices concern to Israeli officials after Gaza strikes

US voices concern to Israeli officials after Gaza strikes
  • The visit comes several few days before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to address the US Congress on July 24
  • Israel has killed at least 38,584 Palestinians, mostly civilians, according to data provided by the Gaza health ministry

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with two senior Israeli officials Monday and voiced worry over recent deadly strikes by Israel in the Gaza Strip, his spokesman said.
The Israeli army has launched several deadly attacks in recent days including on a refugee camp and a UN-run school that was being used as a shelter. In response, Hamas said it was pulling out of ceasefire negotiations, causing prospects for a truce and hostage release deal to dwindle.
Blinken received Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi “to express our serious concern about the recent civilian casualties in Gaza,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters.
On Saturday, Israeli strikes killed more than 90 people in the Al-Mawasi camp near Khan Yunis, Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said. In May, the camp was declared a safe humanitarian zone by the Israeli military, which told civilians to evacuate to it.
Israel said it had been targeting Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif, one of Israel’s most wanted men for decades, and Rafa Salama, the Islamist movement’s commander in Khan Yunis, believed by Israel to be one of the masterminds of the October 7 attack that triggered the current war.
A Hamas official said Sunday that Deif was “well and directly overseeing” operations, though doubts remained. The two Israeli officials told Blinken that “they do not have certainty yet” about Deif’s fate, according to Miller.
The discussions also focused on a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, humanitarian aid for Gaza and post-war plans, he said.
The visit comes several few days before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to address the US Congress on July 24.
“We continue to hear from Israel directly that they want to reach a ceasefire and that they’re committed to the proposal that they put forward,” Miller said.
The United States has strongly defended Israel’s right to defend itself after the October 7 attacks by Hamas, in which 1,195 people, mostly civilians, were killed, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
During the attack, Hamas militants also seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom are still in Gaza including 42 the military says are dead.
But Biden has been under mounting political pressure over the plight of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s military offensive has killed at least 38,584 people, also mostly civilians, according to data provided by the Gaza health ministry.