Cease-fire in Ain Al-Hilweh falls through despite Fatah-Hamas agreement

Cease-fire in Ain Al-Hilweh falls through despite Fatah-Hamas agreement
Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati meeting with a delegation headed by Azzam Al-Ahmad, a senior official of the Palestinian Fatah movement, at the government palace in Beirut on September 13, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 13 September 2023
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Cease-fire in Ain Al-Hilweh falls through despite Fatah-Hamas agreement

Cease-fire in Ain Al-Hilweh falls through despite Fatah-Hamas agreement
  • Clashes intensified in the Hattin and Ras Al-Ahmar neighborhoods within the camp on Wednesday
  • The death toll has reached 10

BEIRUT: Palestinian leaders have failed in a bid to establish a cease-fire in Ain Al-Hilweh refugee camp in southern Lebanon.
Clashes intensified in the Hattin and Ras Al-Ahmar neighborhoods within the camp on Wednesday. Militants from the Fatah movement and various extremist groups utilized a number of types of rocket-propelled grenade, as well as light and medium weapons.
Since last Wednesday, there have been five attempts to establish a cease-fire, each lasting only a few hours before militants resumed the violence, resulting in significant destruction in the area.
The death toll has reached 10, which includes one Lebanese killed by stray bullets while in front of his shop in the southern town of Ghazieh. The number of wounded has risen to 110, encompassing both Lebanese and Palestinians, including members of the Lebanese Armed Forces.
Representatives from Fatah, Hamas (representing the extremist groups) and the Lebanese security services, under the leadership of Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun, met with Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Wednesday. During the meeting, they discussed the agreement reached at the Palestinian Embassy on Tuesday regarding a cease-fire and the handing over of wanted persons suspected of assassinating Fatah leader Mohammed Al-Armoushi.
Attendees at the meeting included Azzam Al-Ahmad, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Central Committee of the Fatah Movement, as well as Moussa Abu Marzouk, a member of the Hamas Political Bureau.
The agreement stipulated “ending media campaigns between the two parties; emphasizing the commitment of the Palestinian Joint Action Committee to establish a cease-fire, along with the understanding reached during the meeting with the leaders of the Lebanese security services at the General Directorate of Lebanese General Security; implementing the decision of the Palestinian Joint Action Committee to hand over wanted individuals accused of assassinating Al-Armoushi and his companions to the Lebanese judiciary; assigning the Joint Security Force to carry out its designated duties; and facilitating the swift return of displaced individuals to their homes and vacating schools as quickly as possible.”
 


Children of Iran Nobel Peace Prize winner fear they won’t see her again

Children of Iran Nobel Peace Prize winner fear they won’t see her again
Updated 09 December 2023
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Children of Iran Nobel Peace Prize winner fear they won’t see her again

Children of Iran Nobel Peace Prize winner fear they won’t see her again
  • Her twin 17-year-old children are due to accept the award at Oslo’s City Hall and give the Nobel Peace Prize lecture on her behalf
  • In a letter smuggled out of prison and published by Swedish broadcaster SVT this week, Mohammadi said she would continue to fight for human rights even if it led to her death

OSLO: The teenage children of jailed Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Narges Mohammadi fear they will never meet their mother again, but said they were proud of her struggle for women’s rights as they prepared to accept the award on her behalf on Sunday.
Mohammadi, 51, who is serving multiple sentences in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison on charges including spreading propaganda, won the award on Oct. 6 in a rebuke to Tehran’s theocratic leaders, prompting the Islamic Republic’s condemnation.
Her twin 17-year-old children, Ali and Kiana Rahman, who live in exile in Paris, are due to accept the award at Oslo’s City Hall and give the Nobel Peace Prize lecture on her behalf.
In a letter smuggled out of prison and published by Swedish broadcaster SVT this week, Mohammadi said she would continue to fight for human rights even if it led to her death. But she said she missed her children the most.
Kiana Rahman, who last saw her mother eight years ago, said: “When it comes to seeing her again, personally I am very pessimistic.”
“Maybe I’ll see her in 30 or 40 years, but I think I won’t see her again,” she told a press conference via a translator. “But that doesn’t matter because my mother will always live on in my heart and with my family.”
Mohammadi was awarded the Peace Prize just over a year after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in the custody of Iranian morality police after being detained for allegedly violating the rules of wearing a hijab, an Islamic head scarf.
Amini’s death provoked months of nationwide protests that posed the biggest challenge to Shiite clerical rule in years, and was met with a deadly security crackdown costing several hundred lives.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee said the award for Mohammadi also recognized hundreds of thousands who had demonstrated against the theocratic regime’s policies discriminating and oppressing women.
Iran has called the protests Western-led subversion, accusing the Nobel committee of meddling and politicizing human rights.
Mohammadi’s son Ali said he had accepted from early childhood that the family would live apart, but said he would stay optimistic he might see her again.
“If we don’t see her again we will always be proud of her and go on with our struggle,” he said.
Mohammadi’s husband Taghi Rahmani said the award would give her a larger voice even if her own conditions were likely to become more difficult.
“It’s a political prize and therefore there will be more pressure on Narges, but at the same time it is going to create a space for echoing the voice of the people” said Rahmani, who will also attend Sunday’s ceremony.
Mohammadi is the 19th woman to win the prize, which today is worth 11 million Swedish crowns, or around $1 million, and the fifth person to win it while in detention.
It is awarded on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who founded the awards in his 1895 will.


Iran says reviving nuclear deal ‘useless’

Iran says reviving nuclear deal ‘useless’
Updated 09 December 2023
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Iran says reviving nuclear deal ‘useless’

Iran says reviving nuclear deal ‘useless’
  • “Today, the more we advance, the more the JCPOA becomes useless,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said
  • “We are not currently on the path to return to the agreement”

TEHRAN: Iran said Saturday that attempting to revive its landmark nuclear deal with world powers that was effectively scrapped by former US president Donald Trump was increasingly “useless.”
“Today, the more we advance, the more the JCPOA becomes useless,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said in a speech to students at the University of Tehran, using the initials of the official name of the nuclear deal.
In 2015, Iran agreed to curbs on its nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of sanctions.
But while the deal was signed with several world powers — including China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany — it was rendered effectively useless when the United States unilaterally withdrew under Trump in 2018.
With the US reimposing sanctions, international banks and businesses have stayed away from Iran for fear of falling foul of US regulators.
Tentative efforts to revive the deal by Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, have been at a standstill since mid-2022.
“Because (Iran’s) red lines have sometimes been ignored by the other side, we are not currently on the path to return to the agreement,” Amir-Abdollahian said.
“Of course, this does not mean that we have set the agreement aside. If the agreement serves our interests, (we will accept it) with all its flaws,” he added.
The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, called in October on the international community not to fail in Iran as it did in North Korea, which now has nuclear weapons.
Iran says its nuclear program is entirely peaceful, but since 2021 the UN body has struggled to monitor the development of its capabilities.


Turkiye’s Erdogan denounces UN ‘Israel protection council’

Turkiye’s Erdogan denounces UN ‘Israel protection council’
Updated 09 December 2023
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Turkiye’s Erdogan denounces UN ‘Israel protection council’

Turkiye’s Erdogan denounces UN ‘Israel protection council’
  • “Since October 7, the security council has become an Israel protection and defense council,” Erdogan said
  • “Is this justice?” asked Erdogan, adding that “the world is bigger than five,” a reference to the five veto-wielding nations in the UN Security Council

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday denounced the UN Security Council after the United States vetoed a cease-fire resolution for Gaza, describing the international body as the ‘Israel protection council’.
“Since October 7, the security council has become an Israel protection and defense council,” Erdogan said.
The United States on Friday vetoed a Security Council resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in the intense fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
Washington thus dashed a growing clamour for a halt to fighting that had been led by UN chief Antonio Guterres and Arab nations.
“Is this justice?” asked Erdogan, adding that “the world is bigger than five,” a reference to the five veto-wielding nations in the UN Security Council.
“Another world is possible, but without America,” the Turkish leader said.
“The United States stands by Israel with its money and military equipment. Hey, America! How much are you going to pay for that?” he added.
“Every day the Declaration of Human Rights is violated in Gaza,” he said, as the world this weekend celebrates the 75th anniversary of the declaration.
The UN resolution for a cease-fire was submitted more than two months after the start of the war in Gaza triggered by Hamas’s bloody attack on Israeli soil on October 7, which, according to the Israeli authorities, killed 1,200 people.
Since then Hamas has put the death toll in Gaza at 17,490, mostly women and children.


Israelis on edge as fears grow of wider Lebanon conflict

Israelis on edge as fears grow of wider Lebanon conflict
Updated 09 December 2023
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Israelis on edge as fears grow of wider Lebanon conflict

Israelis on edge as fears grow of wider Lebanon conflict
  • In peacetime, visitors flock to the town to enjoy its pleasant climate and good surfing
  • For over two months, residents have been living under the threat of near-daily exchanges of fire between the Israeli army and Hezbollah

NAHARIYA, Israel: In the seaside haven of Nahariya, the shock still lingers on Daniel Bussidan’s face. A recent rocket attack killed his friend’s father, and now this Israeli beach town, the closest to Lebanon, stands on edge.
“I’m scared from the attack,” said the 26-year-old who works in his father’s pastry shop on the Mediterranean resort’s eucalyptus-lined main street.
His friend’s father was killed when a rocket struck his farm while he was working, Bussidan told AFP.
“He died on the spot,” Bussidan said.
In peacetime, visitors flock to the town to enjoy its pleasant climate and good surfing.
But for over two months, residents have been living under the threat of near-daily exchanges of fire between the Israeli army and powerful Lebanese movement Hezbollah.
The Iran-backed Shiite group says it entered the fray in support of Hamas on October 8, the day after the Palestinian militants launched their attack in Israel which killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli officials.
Aiming to destroy Hamas, Israel launched a military offensive that the health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza says has killed 17,490 people, mostly women and children, and left the Palestinian territory in ruins.
In northern Israel, residents fear a wider conflict emerging along the border with Lebanon, which snakes along a hill in the distance from Nahariya.
More than 120 people have been killed on the Lebanese side of the border since October 7, mostly Hezbollah fighters and more than a dozen civilians, according to an AFP tally.
Israel says six of its soldiers and four Israeli civilians have been killed in the area, and Lebanon lost its first soldier in the exchanges on Tuesday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Hezbollah that if it “chooses to start a global war, then it will turn Beirut and South Lebanon... into Gaza and Khan Yunis with its own hands.”
Business has slumped along the Nahariya seafront, and many more rifles have appeared, slung over people’s shoulders.
Resident Nathalie Betito, 44, believes Hezbollah fighters could infiltrate the border. But she made a point of celebrating Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, with around 100 people at the central synagogue this week.
She and her husband Arie, 47, immigrated from France five years ago. Nahariya represents an attractive destination, with special tax breaks due to its exposed position.
Arie, who now helps new arrivals at the town hall, said residents were nonetheless living in peril.
Hezbollah has thousands of “missiles pointed at us,” he said, stressing that he did not believe in escalating the conflict into a “total” war.
“The price to pay would be huge,” he said. “Neither side wants that.”
But people in Nahariya are preparing for the worst. Efi Dayan, 60, said he “knows there’s going to be a war here.”
“We’re getting ready with food, clothes. We’re waiting for it,” he said calmly under the winter sun.
But the military job in Gaza needs to be completed first, said Bussidan, a former soldier himself.
“We have to finish Hamas and take care of all civilians on both sides,” he said.


New Gaza aid crossing at Kerem Shalom being tested, not open yet — UN official

New Gaza aid crossing at Kerem Shalom being tested, not open yet — UN official
Updated 09 December 2023
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New Gaza aid crossing at Kerem Shalom being tested, not open yet — UN official

New Gaza aid crossing at Kerem Shalom being tested, not open yet — UN official
  • New crossing will allow trucks from Jordan into Gaza

CAIRO: A new process for inspecting aid for Gaza at the Kerem Shalom crossing is being tested, but efforts to get permission for trucks to enter through the crossing and ramp up relief are still ongoing, a senior UN official told Reuters on Saturday.
Under the new system, trucks would come to the Kerem Shalom crossing on the border between Israel, Gaza and Egypt for the first time from Jordan, before entering Gaza from Rafah, about 3 km (1.86 miles) away.
But the trucks would need to be allowed to enter Gaza directly through Kerem Shalom to alleviate an increasingly desperate situation in the coastal enclave, said Carl Skau, deputy executive director of the UN World Food Programme.
Israel has so far rebuffed pleas from the United Nations and others to open Kerem Shalom, but they both signalled on Thursday that Kerem Shalom could soon help process delivery of humanitarian supplies into Gaza.
Until now, limited quantities of aid have been delivered from Egypt through the Rafah crossing, which is ill-equipped to process large numbers of trucks.
Trucks have been driving more than 40 km (24.85 miles) south to Egypt’s border with Israel before returning to Rafah, leading to bottlenecks and delays.
A process to test the inspection system at Kerem Shalom for trucks arriving from Jordan is underway, said Skau, who visited Gaza on Friday.
“It’s good, it’s useful because it would also be the first time that we can then bring in a pipeline from Jordan. But we need that entry point as well because that would make all the difference,” he said in an interview.
“If you get that open, then it’s just a matter of how much is available and how much can be absorbed on the other side in an orderly fashion, but then certainly that capacity would not be the issue,” he added.
“We have front-loaded with our internal resources so that we have food available in Egypt and in Jordan to reach some 1,000,000 people in one month. We are ready to roll. The trucks are ready to move.”
Skau said the situation inside Gaza was increasingly chaotic as people grabbed what they could from aid distribution points, with larger numbers of people displaced southwards close to the border with Egypt and aid trucks at risk of being stopped by desperate residents if they even slow down at an intersection.
“There is a question for how long this can continue, because the humanitarian operation is collapsing,” he said.
“Half of the population are starving, nine out of 10 are not eating every day. Obviously the needs are massive.”