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)
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Updated 13 September 2023
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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.”


No attacks on US troops since Israel-Hamas truce began: Pentagon

Updated 4 sec ago
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No attacks on US troops since Israel-Hamas truce began: Pentagon

No attacks on US troops since Israel-Hamas truce began: Pentagon
WASHINGTON: The near-daily attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria have stopped since a truce between Israel and Hamas went into effect last week, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
American forces in the two countries have been targeted with rockets and drones more than 70 times since mid-October — a surge in violence the United States has blamed on Iran-backed forces.
“There have been no attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria since November 23, since the operational pause began,” Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told journalists.
The attacks have caused injuries to dozens of American personnel — who are in Iraq and Syria as part of efforts to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State jihadist group — but all have since returned to duty.
The spike in attacks on US forces is linked to the war between Israel and Hamas, triggered on October 7 when the Palestinian militant group carried out a shock cross-border attack from Gaza that Israeli officials say killed about 1,200 people.
Israel responded with a relentless land and air on Hamas-controlled Gaza that the territory’s health ministry says has killed almost 15,000 people.
Those deaths have provoked widespread anger in the Middle East and provided an impetus for attacks against American troops in the region by armed groups opposed to their presence and to Washington’s backing for Israel.
A four-day truce mediated by Qatar went into effect on November 24 under which Hamas released hostages and Israel freed Palestinian prisoners.
The truce has since been extended and mediators are working for a lasting halt to the seven-week Israel-Hamas war.
The United States was flying drones over Gaza as part of efforts to locate hostages seized by Hamas, but those activities have been paused as part of the truce, Ryder said.

US tells Israel any military operation in Gaza must avoid further civilian displacement

US tells Israel any military operation in Gaza must avoid further civilian displacement
Updated 46 min 47 sec ago
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US tells Israel any military operation in Gaza must avoid further civilian displacement

US tells Israel any military operation in Gaza must avoid further civilian displacement
  • The US wants Israel to carefully think its military campaign due to mounting pressure caused by Palestinian death toll
  • Benjamin Netanyahu has already indicated Israeli forces will restart military operation after the conclusion of ceasefire

WASHINGTON: The Biden administration has told Israel that it must work to avoid “significant further displacement” of Palestinian civilians in southern Gaza if it renews its ground campaign aimed at eradicating the Hamas militant group, senior US officials said.
The administration, seeking to avoid more large-scale civilian casualties or mass displacement like that seen before the current temporary pause in the fighting, underscored to the Israelis that they must operate with far greater precision in southern Gaza than they did in the north, the officials said, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the White House.
Amid mounting international and domestic pressure about the rising Palestinian death toll, the White House has begun to put greater pressure on Israel that the manner of the coming campaign must be “carefully thought through,” according to one of the officials. The Israelis have been receptive when administration officials have raised these concerns, the official said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made clear that Israeli Defense Forces will eventually restart military operations after the conclusion of the current, temporary ceasefire that has allowed for an exchange of hostages taken by Hamas for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. The two sides agreed Monday to extend the truce for an additional two days and to continue swapping hostages for prisoners.
President Joe Biden has said he would like to see the pause — which has also allowed a surge of much-needed humanitarian aid to get into Gaza — continue as long as feasible. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will return this week to the Middle East as the US hopes to find a way to extend the ceasefire and get more hostages released, the State Department said Monday. It will be his third trip to the region since Israel’s war with Hamas began last month.
Still, Biden and top officials have also been clear-eyed about Israel’s desire to continue operations focused on Hamas that over the last seven weeks have largely focused on the north. They have said they support Israel’s goal of eliminating Hamas’ control over Gaza and the threat it poses to Israeli civilians, but have grown more vocal about the need to protect the lives of Palestinian civilians. Hamas has been known to seek shelter among the territory’s civilian population, and Israeli officials have released videos from northern Gaza of what they said are weapons stockpiles and firing locations placed among civilian infrastructure.
More than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed since the war began on Oct. 7, roughly two-thirds of them women and minors, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza, which does not differentiate between civilians and combatants. More than 1,200 people have been killed on the Israeli side, mostly civilians killed in the initial attack. At least 77 soldiers have been killed in Israel’s ground offensive.
The US believes roughly 2 million Palestinians are now in south and central Gaza. Biden administration officials have made clear to the Israelis that an already stretched humanitarian support network would be unable to cope with the sort of displacement that those from northern Gaza have endured in Israel’s retaliatory strikes and ground operations.
Biden administration officials have also told the Israelis they expect them to conduct operations in a way that will be “maximally deconflicted” with the operation of humanitarian aid facilities, United Nations-supported shelters and core infrastructure, including electricity and water.
The World Health Organization has warned that the war has caused a burgeoning public health crisis that is a recipe for epidemics as displaced Palestinians have been forced to take shelter in cramped homes and camps.
One administration official said vaccines are among the medical goods flowing into Gaza, but there has also been a focus on potable water supplies and sanitation to prevent outbreaks of typhoid and cholera. To that end, the White House has also pushed to get as much fuel into Gaza as possible — something the Israelis resisted, particularly in the first weeks of war, citing concerns that it would be siphoned by Hamas.
The officials said the US on Tuesday would dispatch the first of three US military humanitarian aid flights to northern Egypt carrying medical supplies, food aid and winter items for Gaza’s civilian population.


Hamas senior official invites Elon Musk to visit Gaza

Hamas senior official invites Elon Musk to visit Gaza
Updated 28 November 2023
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Hamas senior official invites Elon Musk to visit Gaza

Hamas senior official invites Elon Musk to visit Gaza
  • “We invite him to visit Gaza to see the extent of the massacres and destruction committed,” Hamas’ senior official Osama Hamdan said

BEIRUT: A Hamas senior official invited US billionaire Elon Musk on Tuesday to visit the Palestinian Gaza strip to see the extent of destruction caused by the Israeli bombardment.
“We invite him to visit Gaza to see the extent of the massacres and destruction committed against the people of Gaza, in compliance with the standards of objectivity and credibility,” Hamas’ senior official Osama Hamdan said in a press conference in Beirut.
On Monday, Elon Musk, the social media mogul assailed for his endorsement of an anti-Jewish post, toured the site of the Hamas assault on Israel and declared his commitment to do whatever was necessary to stop the spread of hatred.


Hezbollah politician hopes truce will continue

Hezbollah politician hopes truce will continue
Updated 28 November 2023
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Hezbollah politician hopes truce will continue

Hezbollah politician hopes truce will continue
  • “God willing, the truce will continue,” senior Hezbollah lawmaker Hassan Fadlallah said
  • Israeli attacks in Lebanon have killed around 100 people — 80 of them Hezbollah fighters

BEIRUT: A senior Hezbollah politician said on Tuesday he hoped a truce would continue and his Iran-backed group had started paying compensation to people who had suffered losses during weeks of Israeli strikes in south Lebanon.
Following the start of the Hamas-Israel war on Oct. 7, Hezbollah and Israel have engaged in their worst hostilities since 2006, with Hezbollah attacking Israeli positions at the border and Israel launching air and artillery strikes.
But the cross-border violence has ceased since Hamas — a Hezbollah ally — and Israel reached a temporary truce on Friday.
“God willing, the truce will continue,” senior Hezbollah lawmaker Hassan Fadlallah said after a meeting with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
The violence at the Israel-Lebanese border has forced tens of thousands of people on both sides of the frontier to flee their homes.
Israeli attacks in Lebanon have killed around 100 people — 80 of them Hezbollah fighters. Hostilities spiralled following the Oct. 7 Hamas raid from the Gaza Strip into Israel, setting off a conflict that spread around the region.
Citing a Hezbollah survey of damage done by Israeli attacks in Lebanon, Fadlallah said 37 residential buildings had been totally destroyed and 11 more completely burned. Another 1,500 homes across the south had suffered varying degrees of damage.
Fadlallah said Mikati had agreed the government would pay compensation, including for destroyed cars and olive groves. This would be separate from compensation to be paid by Hezbollah, he added.
“It is true that we, in Hezbollah, began paying compensation ... but this does not mean at all that the government is not concerned, indeed it is concerned, and (Mikati) was very responsive,” Fadlallah said.
Hezbollah said it spent more than $300 million on compensation and reconstruction following the 2006 war, during which Israeli air strikes laid waste to swathes of the Hezbollah-controlled southern suburbs of Beirut.


Hostage-prisoner swap brings Israeli practice of detaining Palestinian children out of the shadows

Hostage-prisoner swap brings Israeli practice of detaining Palestinian children out of the shadows
Updated 28 November 2023
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Hostage-prisoner swap brings Israeli practice of detaining Palestinian children out of the shadows

Hostage-prisoner swap brings Israeli practice of detaining Palestinian children out of the shadows

Ongoing hostage-for-prisoners exchange opens the world’s eyes to arrests, interrogations, and even abuse of Palestinian children by Israeli authorities